The death of Anne Garrels, an international correspondent for NPR who reported from the front lines of major conflicts around the world, including during the American “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad in 2003, took place on Wednesday at her home in Norfolk, Connecticut. Garrels was a journalist who covered international news. Her age was 71.
According to her brother John Garrels, the cause of death was lung cancer.
Ms. Garrels began her career in media as a television journalist at ABC News. However, she became well-known for her coverage of conflicts and massacres in many parts of the world while working at NPR for more than twenty years. She gained renown for her ability to communicate how big events, like as wars, impacted the individuals who had to live through them. Her settings ranged from the former Soviet Union to Tiananmen Square, Bosnia, and Chechnya, as well as the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The reporting done by Garrels is rich in history, context, insight, and comedy, and it also makes excellent use of natural sound. Therefore, you should read the citation that was presented to her when she earned an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in 1997 for her coverage of the Soviet Union, even if it might have applied to her body of work throughout the years.
Her polished appearance and look of intellectualism belied her eagerness to test her luck and try new things. In spite of Russia’s prohibition on overseas media, she covered both of the Chechen conflicts. Following the events of September 11, 2001, she went to Afghanistan in order to report on the situation from the front lines of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. During that journey, when journalists in a convoy were murdered and killed, Ms. Garrels felt that it would be safer for her to go alone. She then started on a two-day bus voyage to Kabul by herself by herself.
She wrote dispatches by candlelight as she travelled and sent them through satellite phone. Along the route, she interviewed the people around her to compile information on the toll that the conflict was doing on civilians.
Deborah Amos, an NPR journalist who worked with Ms. Garrels internationally and who participated in a phone interview for this obituary one year ago, described Ms. Garrels as “persistent, really relentless.” She put her life on the line in every way possible.
She was also unstoppable in her determination. When fighting broke out in Ukraine in February, Ms. Garrels, who had long since retired from NPR and was undergoing treatment for cancer, suggested that the station broadcast the violence.
The network decided not to send her, so instead, she helped form a non-profit relief group called assist-ukraine.org. This organisation collected donations in order to provide goods to people in Ukraine.
Ms. Garrels often went back to the locations where she had done previous reporting and continued to delve further into the topics she had covered there. This is in contrast to the approach used by other journalists, who just jump into volatile situations and then move on. For example, she tracked the people who lived in a single city in the central west region of Russia for a total of twenty years in order to track the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The work she did during the Iraq war in 2003 earned the greatest praise. More than five hundred journalists, including more than one hundred Americans, covered the events leading up to the conflict. But as the United States launched the all-out bombing campaign known as “shock and awe,” she was one of 16 American reporters who were not embedded with U.S. soldiers who remained. For a while, she was the only U.S. network reporter to continue reporting from the heart of Baghdad.
Due to the fact that her vivid reports were often picked up by other broadcasters, Ms. Garrels and her safety became a topic in and of itself.
When she finally got back to her house, more reporters questioned her about the event. She said that her diet consisted of Kit Kat chocolate bars and Marlboro Lights, that she had showers by collecting water from enormous garbage cans, and that she powered her equipment by hooking jumper wires to a vehicle battery, which she dragged up to her hotel room every night.
Ms. Garrels disclosed to Terry Gross, the presenter of the NPR programme “Fresh Air,” that she had not given the idea of remaining in Baghdad any consideration. “My gut instinct told me I would be OK,” she said, in part because she worked with a highly talented fixer.
She disclosed to Ms. Gross that there were moments when she was concerned about being held prisoner; nonetheless, she said that she was often so fatigued at night that she “slept like a baby through the bombardment.”
She said that the idea of being unable to tell a narrative as well as she desired was the thing that really terrified her. “Writing is difficult for me,” she said. “It’s a long and arduous process.”
In 1988, she began her career with NPR and was eventually assigned to the Moscow bureau. When she moved away from Moscow in 1998, she and Mr. Lawrence sold their property in Washington and went to his family’s compound in Norfolk, which is located in the northwestern part of the state of Connecticut.