(MENAFN - Arab News) On Thursday, Feb. 16, Anthony Shadid, the well-known New York Times reporter, died, apparently of an asthma attack.
He was on a reporting assignment in eastern Syria, according to his newspaper, and had been reporting inside Syria for a week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other elements of the resistance.
I met Anthony for the first time shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and if you recall, in those days much of American media was in hysterics. Balance and accuracy in reporting went out the window for many journalists. However, talking with Anthony at the time, I was immediately impressed by his poise and ability to think clearly and fairly in those dark days.
His wisdom and depth of knowledge of this region were clearly evident in his nuanced and detailed accounts of reactions to Sept. 11 attacks and the events that followed - characteristics that were almost unparalleled at the time.
We stayed in touch ever since. In March 2002, while covering the second Palestinian Intifada in Ramallah, Anthony was shot and badly wounded in the back of his shoulder by an Israeli bullet. He survived the attack, but the bullet went in one shoulder, reached within a half-inch from his spine and out the other shoulder, leaving 12 shrapnel fragments embedded in his body. It took him months to recover, although he returned to work long before he made full recovery. For a while he wrote with one hand, while the other arm was in a sling.
When I saw him in Saudi Arabia in 2008, he told me about a favorite project of his, the restoration of his ancestral home in Lebanon.
In his great book House of Stone, he recounts not just that restoration process, but also the history of southern Lebanon and the story of his own family's emigration to America in the 1920s and their settlement in the state of Oklahoma.
During the past decade, Shadid won two Pulitzer prizes, but the success never got to his head, continuing to work as hard as ever.
Over the past year, we talked repeatedly about the events around Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa.
He was among the first to get the wider significance of the first uprising in Tunisia in December 2010. In addition to what other reporters wrote about regarding the particulars of each country, he also wrote about the pan-Arab implications of those events.
Anthony's death is a tragic loss, not only for his family and friends, but for fiercely independent and serious journalism as well. His dedication to his work was made clear by venturing into dangerous places, in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and finally Syria. He was killed not by a bullet, but by an asthma attack that could have probably been treated had he been somewhere else less dangerous. He was both a war reporter and beautiful soul, to borrow Hegel's phrase.