Like most of us, I knew Anthony Shadid primarily through his writing, which was more than reporting, more than a chronicle of trauma and pain. It held humanity accountable.
But I will always feel connected to him in one way: We won Pulitzers for The Washington Post in the same year. He had left for the New York Times by the time the 2010 prizes were awarded — his for international reporting, mine for criticism — but he delivered effusive and gracious comments by speakerphone at the informal gathering in The Post’s newsroom on that April day when the news was announced. It felt somehow fitting to hear his voice that way, intimate yet distant, a part of the family yet beyond its grasp, similar to how his dispatches brought us out of ourselves and into other lives far away.
It was as a father that I finally came to know Anthony in person. A few weeks after the announcement, I met him at the Pulitzer luncheon at Columbia University. He and I seemed to be the only ones there accompanied by children, and we both had daughters about the same age (mine was 8). His daughter, Laila, like mine, seemed shyly overwhelmed in the echoing, high-ceilinged rooms packed with adults, and the two little girls soon struck up a giggly friendship, running around together in the hallways in their party dresses. I was struck by Laila’s shining dark eyes, just like her father’s. When I first saw them together, she was holding his hand, clinging to him like she would never let him go. I’ll never forget those beautiful, serious eyes of hers: She didn’t want to share him.
Indeed, the atmosphere was a bit overwhelming and unsettled for me, too, at that luncheon; I think we were all a bit dazzled and jittery even in our delight at being there. But this is why the news of his death is so unbelievable to me — as I saw him then and have remembered him ever since, Anthony was the happiest man around. Laughing and utterly joyous, hand in hand with his little girl, in what was, given his career, perhaps a rare moment simply to relish life. He had the biggest, warmest smile in the hall. I just loved that, and thought it remarkable and right, considering all the calamity and atrocities he lived through. Shortly afterward, I was reading his byline again from the Middle East. The party was over; he was back at work.
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