In his last moments, New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid knew that he faced danger from the horses that would lead him back to safety from Syria, over the border with Turkey.
But he had little choice but to press on.
“He will get through this as he did on the much more strenuous hike in, I thought,” wrote Shadid’s colleague Tyler Hicks in a front-page story in The New York Times on Sunday.
But Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, died of an allergy attack brought on by the horses on his way out of Syria in February after a week-long reporting assignment.
Hicks’ account – unusual for a photographer (his work pictured above) – described a dangerous week with the Syrian rebels, which he called well-organized. He and Shadid had worked in many strife-ridden zones before, but Shadid never got to write up his copious notes from this final trip.
In a moving tribute, Hicks described the dramatic, fatal scene after an initial asthma attack on the way into the country.
“Anthony’s health had been good during the week and he prepared himself for the trip down with antihistamines and a supply of inhalers,” Hicks wrote. “He had a black and white kaffiyeh covering his face to filter the air, the same one he had worn around his neck throughout the assignment. He told the young men he wouldn’t ride a horse and to walk ahead with them at a distance.
“Should we walk in front of the horses?” I asked Anthony.
“No, they need to guide us,” he said.
The pace down was faster and easier than coming up a week earlier, and this time our bags were carried by horses instead of on our backs. But then I could hear that Anthony’s breathing became strained, and within a mile he was asking to rest. He will get through this as he did on the much more strenuous hike in, I thought, and with one of my arms around his waist, and the other holding his forearm, we continued to walk.
Soon after, Anthony stopped and leaned against a large boulder, and unlike the first time, when he had merely labored for breath, now he collapsed onto the ground. I called out his name, but he was already unconscious and his breathing had stopped completely. I performed CPR for half an hour while begging the smugglers to find a doctor. I hoped for a miracle. Turkey was now out of the question, and backtracking would only return us to a remote border village. Finally, a small covered truck drove quietly within sight of us and we carried Anthony, whose death I could still not come to terms with, into the back, where I climbed in with him.
Hicks later carried his friend’s body over the border.