The apparent cause of death was an asthma attack — an ironic end for a man who placed himself in the path of danger countless times. Shadid was shot in the shoulder while in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Easter Sunday in 2002; he and several of his New York Times colleagues were arrested, detained and treated roughly by forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi last year.
“He changed the way we saw Iraq, Egypt, Syria over the last, crucial decade,” said Phil Bennett, the former managing editor of The Post who worked closely with Shadid. “There is no one to replace him.”
The Times said Shadid had been reporting in Syria for a week on rebels battling the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was accompanying Shadid, said the reporter had asthma and carried medication with him. Shadid began to exhibit symptoms early Thursday, and they escalated into what became a fatal attack, according to Hicks’s account, as quoted by the Times.
The two men had entered the country last week in defiance of a Syrian ban on Western reporters, sneaking in at night under barbed wire, according to the Times. They were met by guides on horseback, and Shadid apparently had an adverse reaction to the horses. A week later, as they made their way out, he reacted to the horses again. “I stood next to him and asked if he was okay, and then he collapsed,” Hicks said. Hicks attempted to revive his colleague and then carried him across the border into Turkey, the newspaper said.
The news of Shadid’s death sent shock waves through newsrooms in New York, Boston and Washington, where journalists who had worked with Shadid at those cities’ three leading newspapers recalled a colleague of deep intellect, enormous generosity and a well-tuned, ironic sense of humor. During the U.S. “shock and awe” bombing campaign in the early days of the Iraq conflict, for example, Shadid quoted an American-educated Iraqi this way: “To tell you the truth, I’ve been neither shocked nor awed.”
Marty Baron, editor of the Boston Globe, for which Shadid worked before joining The Post in 2003, recalled rushing to Israel in 2002 after Shadid, then a Globe reporter, was shot while covering demonstrations on the West Bank.
“It was amazing, seeing him in the hospital. Here was a person that, despite what happened to him, was still remarkably positive about things, demonstrated a real eagerness to get out of the hospital, get back in the field,” said Baron. “It was clear his wounds were not going to stop him, even though it looked like he was going to have severely limited mobility in at least one of his shoulders. He was amazingly resilient. He had such a love for the story of the region, and a passion for telling that story.”