Subject of Travel Feature Killed in Iraq

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2004

She had never flown before, and she was scared, Luma had confessed. Don't be silly, I told my Iraqi translator. You are one of the bravest people I know. Well, she told me, I prayed for three things just in case. The first was that God would protect my mother, the second that God would take care of my daughter and the third that we will go to the United States. Of course, I reassured her, while we waited for our flight to Jordan at Baghdad International Airport. The next trip will be to the United States.

On Nov. 24, Luma, who was featured in an Oct. 3 Travel story, was shot and killed at a U.S. Army base in Baghdad. The Army is investigating.

Luma, whose last name is being withheld to protect her family, was one of a kind. She lit up a room when she walked in. This compensated -- as it had to -- for her complete lack of English skills. Each day I gave her a word list to help her grasp the foreign language of The Washington Post Baghdad bureau: explosion, barricade, suicide, amputate, courage, sweat, blaze. She was a fast learner.

One of her first days in the office, she was driving to work and Omar, our office manager, spotted her pulling her BMW up on the sidewalk of a downtown Baghdad street. She drove as far as she could and when she reached a big drop-off, Omar watched as several men abandoned their own cars to help her back onto the roadway. When they both reached the office, Omar asked her what she had been doing. You told me I had to be in the office by 9 sharp, she told him. We quickly learned what the "Luma way" meant. She always got it.

Luma leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter, her mother and a brother.

Jackie Spinner is a staff writer for The Post's Business section, currently on assignment in Baghdad.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company