What Anthony had sensed that evening was the coming of the Arab Spring, and when it happened in 2011, it was his life’s work unfolding before his eyes. He took enormous pleasure in the excruciating days and nights of work covering that story in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Syria. He told me once last year that he had witnessed scenes that were the most gripping and profound of his entire career. They were, he added, “epic.”
Only someone who has been hit in the shoulder with a bullet, as Anthony was in Ramallah in 2002, could have carried such sensitivity to violence and danger. He was never the archetype of a war correspondent—he could not be hardened or swashbuckling or unfeeling. He was at heart a genuinely modest person who hated the bombs as much as those who were caught under them and told him of their fears. He had a deep attachment to his colleagues, friends, and family, often unsettled by the pain and worry they had endured because of his work. He was intensely happy at the time he met his wife, Nada Bakri, who graduated from Columbia in 2009 with a master of science degree, and he was deeply devoted to his daughter Laila and son Malik. Only weeks after his son was born, Nada brought him to the awards luncheon at the Low Library on Columbia’s campus, where Anthony received his second Pulitzer for coverage of the war in Iraq and its aftermath.
It is hard to overstate the impact that Anthony’s work had on his colleagues. His portraits of suffering in Iraq during the last decade were literary gems. His friend Steve Fainaru observed that Anthony wrote poetry on deadline. When he returned to the Post newsroom in 2003, his colleagues stood and applauded him for his courage and skill. But he was not one to bask in adulation. He had offered his own ovation in his page-one stories for those unfortunate Iraqis caught in the terrifying grip of war.
I have always remembered the time in Iraq that he took a driver and car down an uncertain road and made it through a very tense checkpoint in pursuit of a story. As his car pulled away, he saw, through the rearview mirror, that one behind his had not been so lucky and had been hit, exploding in a fireball. He called me later on a satellite telephone. His voice trembled. He had a passion for life, and he was shaken. He had experienced more misery and violence than many correspondents see in a lifetime, but not for his own glory. He went to those places to make sure the voices of dispossession would be heard and the victims of war would be seen. From his life’s work, we must aspire to continue this great mission.