After many years of frontline reporting, the shocks and stresses of the evil that Marie had witnessed inevitably took their toll. She suffered a serious bout of post-traumatic stress disorder after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and was unable to work for many months. She was unhappy in love, and there were dark times when friends feared she would commit suicide by throwing herself into the river.

Marie pulled through these recurring dark periods, and lately seemed to have found a renewed vigor. She took up sailing again, a passion from her Long Island upbringing (she grew up in Oyster Bay, NY, the daughter of schoolteachers). She lived on the banks of the Thames, and the parties she gave for the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge were legendary. Marie promised her friends to take it easier.

But she could not give up frontline reporting, and when the uprisings in the Arab world began to take root in late 2010, she was unstoppable.

Marie was killed in Syria along with Remi Ochlik, a talented 28-year-old French photographer, when Syrian troops shelled Homs. Her loss is tragic. So, too, Ochlik’s, and other recent deaths—not least the 13 Syrian activists said to have died in getting the photographer who had been working with Marie out of the city. Their deaths have sparked some reassessment of the risks war reporters take, and ask others to take, in the nebulous name of truth.

She is the latest in a long line of colleagues of mine over the years who became victims of war, starting with 20 who were captured and killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, my own baptism in war reporting, during eight murderous weeks in April and May, 1970.

It is sad that Marie, too, died in this violent way. But not surprising. War always kills, after all. Marie’s style of journalism deserves to survive. At its best it helps us to understand better what our action—or our inaction—does in precarious parts of the world. I hope that people of courage like Marie are prepared to carry on facing danger to tell us, firsthand, what they see.

And let us salute them. 

 

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Jon Swain is a British writer and foreign correspondent and the author of River of Time: a memoir of Vietnam