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article imageTyler Hicks Recalls Anthony Shaheed's Last Days

By Layne Weiss     Mar 3, 2012 in World
Tyler Hicks is a prize-winning photographer for the New York Times. He was the last person to see fellow New York Times reporter, Anthony Shaheed alive. Hicks carried Shaheed's lifeless body from Syria to Turkey.
Earlier today, Tyler Hicks recounted the experience in a New York Times feature.
Shaheed and Hicks traveled to Syria last month to report on the devastation and conflict happening there. Hicks recalled crossing from Turkey into Syria. "We were also crossing from peace into war, into the bloodiest conflict of the Arab spring," he wrote.
Despite the dangers, the two agreed on the importance of traveling to Syria. Anthony Shaheed had spent years documenting various Arab related conflicts for the New York Times, and felt it was vital for journalists to go to Syria. Hicks and Shaheed knew of the dangers. At this point, 7,000 people had been killed. The two planned their strategy for staying safe.
In an extremely sad and ironic turn of events, it turned out that Anthony Shaheed's allergy to horses would lead to his untimely death. Hicks and Shaheed spent so much time making plans to stay safe from weapons. Hicks recalls that Shaheed was indeed allergic to horses, but he had no idea how severe the allergy was.
"He had a terrible allergic attack the first night after we crossed over the barbed wire," Hicks recounted. A week later, as horses led Hicks and Shaheed to safety, Shaheed suffered another attack, this time it was fatal. Anthony Shaheed died at age 43, 45 minutes from safety. His wife and nearly 2 year old son had been waiting for him in Turkey.
Hicks recalled Shaheed's eagerness to get back to write about the experience in Syria. Tyler Hicks traveled to Syria as a photographer. His objective: capture images of a war zone. He's not a news reporter, but he wrote this piece in an attempt to honor his friend and travel partner's wishes, to convey, the best way he could, what he and Anthony Shaheed experienced in Syria.
Hicks recalled meeting their guides. These men called themselves activists. Shaheed and Hicks related to these men well as they too were risking their lives by helping American journalists tell their story. Almost all the guides were jailed and tortured at some point. And in order to keep their families safe, they had not had any contact with them.
Hicks recounted a quiet day in which he and Shaheed made a last minute decision to go report on a battle. Hicks was a little apprehensive at first. He wanted the footage, but he knew how gruesome it was going to be. Still, he and Shaheed went. The fighters "told Anthony they would try to hit one of the tanks with a homemade bomb, their most effective weapon, already set in the road. They planned to attack the disabled convoy with their rifles."
Hicks and Shaheed were warned to stay behind a row of houses to stay out of harm's way. A slight rumble was heard and felt, and two tanks came before the fighters had a chance to detonate their bomb. Soon, gunfire erupted.
Someone yelled to stop the fighting, which under the circumstances wasn't such an outlandish request. Hicks recalled one fighter telling Anthony that "a tank had pointedly turned its gun away from the attack, and in a show of support, a soldier raised his hand from the turret to display the 'victory' sign."
The attack was quick. After, Tyler and Anthony went to a makeshift office set up by the activists. "The activists suggested that we keep a low profile because of how exposed we had been in town that day." Hicks remembers fondly being offered dark Arabic coffee, and happily accepting. "Anthony not only loved his coffee, he also needed it," Hicks recounted.
That evening was remarkably fun and peaceful. Hicks and Shaheed experienced traditional Syrian dancing and music. Hicks turned to see Shaheed smiling. "This was exactly the kind of connection that made him most happy as a reporter; his great great warmth and intelligence were part of what made him the most important journalist covering the Arab world," Hicks wrote eloquently about his fallen friend.
Hicks made his way next to Shaheed. A dessert of sweet cheese doused in sticky syrup was served, and Tyler and Anthony were thanked graciously for being there to witness and share the struggle and conflict in Syria.
In the end, Tyler and Anthony learned the real organization and strength of the Syrian Free Army. They learned that the regular Syrian Army is a bit weak and unreliable. Most importantly, they learned that despite all the violence, life goes on. Shops remain open, and people still walk the streets. Most citizens say they want the Assad government, which is accused of utterly disregarding the lives of women and children, out of power.
On the way back to Turkey, Anthony Shaheed collapsed. Tyler Hicks performed CPR for half an hour calling and begging for a doctor, hoping for some type of miracle. It was too late. Anthony Shaheed was dead at age 43. With the help of a small covered truck, Tyler was eventually able to get Anthony's body back to Turkey.
Tyler Hicks went to Syria to capture images of a war zone. His experience turned into something much, much deeper. He will never get over the devastation of losing Anthony, but he will always remember his sparkly spirit, passion, and love of his work.
More about Tyler Hicks, Syria, War, New York Times
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