Guarding the home in Mingora, Pakistan of Kainat Riaz, 16, who was shot alongside Malala Yousafzai by the same Taliban gunman, 2012

Guarding the home in Mingora, Pakistan of Kainat Riaz, 16, who was shot alongside Malala Yousafzai by the same Taliban gunman, 2012

Many years ago, I asked Anja to show me her favorite picture, the one she liked the most. The photo she sent showed an elegant older man sitting on the wreckage of a large destroyed vehicle as if it was a park bench, his legs crossed, one hand resting on the curved handle of an umbrella, the other holding a cigar at his lips.

It was a very Anja kind of picture. She was focused on calm while all around was chaos. And I believe that is why her pictures from terrible places resonated with so many people around the world.

She found their dignity. She found the quiet human moments that connected people in great strife with all the rest of us: A father tenderly kissing a baby. Children playing ball on a dusty street. A young girl reaching way up to help her brother down from a high place.

Many who have written and talked about Anja in the sad days since she left us have mentioned her great laugh and her great joy for life. She may have been the only completely happy journalist in the world; she certainly was a truly happy person. And she did infect all of us with her boundless joy, even, and perhaps especially, when things were difficult.

The work she did required enormous preparation. Not just work in conflict, but in the sporting events that she covered.

Many hours were spent preparing her cameras, the wiring, the angle, making sure that she, above all others, was going to get the very best shot. And she so often did.

Anja was also known among us all as a great teacher. Many of us have heard her say “Nein! Nein! Nein! Don’t do it that way. Try harder. You can be better.”

Then, encouragement. “I believe in you.”

And, sometimes, the words that were very precious when they came from Anja: “I’m very proud of you.”

Several years ago she and I had lunch while she was on her way to look for a young soldier. She had photographed him in a helicopter ambulance, gravely wounded.

As he lay on the ambulance floor being treated, she reached out and held his hand and he gripped it very tightly. And she gripped it tightly back. And with her other hand, she picked up her camera and made a picture. And several more. And eventually, he passed into unconsciousness and he let go of her hand.

She made more pictures and noticed a little piece of wheat caught in his uniform. And she plucked it off of him and put it in her vest. And when I saw her, she was looking for him.

After six months, she found him. He looked at her pictures and they talked for many hours. They hugged. And they cried. And she gave him back the piece of wheat.

Anja, dear Anja. The days since you left us have been so sad. But we are grateful for all that you have given us. And we will always hear your voice in our ears.

“Nein! Nein! Nein! You can do better … ”

“I am proud of you.”

This is a lightly edited version of remarks made by Kathleen Carroll, Associated Press senior vice president and executive editor, at the funeral of Anja Niedringhaus, NF ’07, in Hoexter, Germany on April 12, 2014

 

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