February Column Winner

Shadid's life, work should be celebrated

CLAY HORNING, The Norman Transcript

I would love to tell you that Anthony Shadid was one of my best friends. But he wasn't He was a friend in fourth and fifth grade, when both of us went to school at Westminster in northwest Oklahoma City.
His cousin Eddie, now an Oklahoma City councilman, became one of my best mends. Anthony wasn't that, but he was part of this nucleus of kids who would be familiar with each other for the rest of their lives.
You probably have a group like that, maybe more than one. My group included Will Hunzicker And David Douglass and Tanja Krous and Mary Kenan and Curtis Wanggrd and Sanju Vinekar and Michael Last. And Anthony Shadid.
Some I still know. Some I don't. But I'd know them like I've known them all their lives if they walked through the door. And to hear of the passing of any of them, given Friday, is to lose a piece of yourself.
I learned of Anthony's death late Thursday night. It's been sneaking up on me ever since. Part of it may be the virtual and deserved shrine he's been receiving on CNN and MSNBC.
Twice he won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, at The Washington Post in 2004 and The New York Times in 2010.
His beat was the Middle East.
The last time I saw him, of all places, he was playing poker with his father at Riverwind. Libya had just begun taking its tum in the Arab Spring. We talked about it.
If Libya can tum, who knows what’s possible, he told me, for Libya was not the Third World. To be a rebel there was to 1isk more than your life. It meant losing your stuff, too.
Not long after, he and three other Times journalists were kidnapped by Libyan government forces. Six days later, battered but breathing, they were released.
In 2002, reporting for The Boston Globe from the West Bank, Anthony took a bullet to the shoulder. But it was an apparent allergic reaction to the horse that was transporting him back across the Syrian border that is believed to have triggered the asthma attack that killed him.
I want to believe in Providence, but I don't get it. I rarely do.
Anthony had risked his life to venture into Syria, where the forces of Bashar al-Assad are taking a page out of Ghadafi's playbook and slaughtering their own people. He had risked his life for what he had always risked it for: to tell people's stories. But Thursday, he was on his way out of the country when the attack hit.
It may sound stupid, but it makes me think of Col. Henry Blake, the "M*A*S*H" character, on his way home to Bloomington, Ind., shot down over the Sea of Japan.
Why'd they have to kill Henry? Why'd Anthony have to die, when he had already survived the seeming risk of his latest mission?
I want Mary Fallin to lower the flags.
I want people to know who he was. I want everybody in his home state who did not go to school with him to know one of their own grew up to be the Babe Ruth of his field, even changed the world a little, before being struck down in his prime, on the way out of one more war zone, there to explain, the way I always read him, that the people over there aren't that different from the people over here, from you and me.
Finally, I knew him as one with a last name that rhymed with "batted" rather than the pronunciation you may have heard on the news channels.
I'm sure that was the Americanized version, not the one of his Lebanese ancestors. So I hardly begrudge it, even if there was this fleeting sense the Anthony I kept hearing about Friday was not the Anthony I grew up knowing.
He was, though.
The day I bumped into him, we went through all the people we knew, where were they, what were they doing? Like we'd always known each other.
Maybe we had.
He was the same guy.
A giant, too.