Anne Garrels, Fearless NPR Reporter, Dies at 71

Anne Garrels, an international correspondent for NPR, who has covered major conflicts around the world from the front lines, including during the “horrible and horrifying” US bombing of Baghdad in 2003, died Wednesday at his home in Norfolk, Conn. She is 71 years old. .

Her brother, John Garrels, said the cause was lung cancer.

Ms. Garrels began her journalism career in television at ABC News. But it was at NPR, where she worked for more than two decades, that she made her name covered in conflict and bloodshed across the globe. She is known for conveying how important events, like war, affect the people who live through them. Her background includes the Soviet Union, Tiananmen Square, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Garrels reporting is filled with history, context, analysis and humour, combined with a skillful use of nature sounds.” So read the quote when she won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for covering the Soviet Union in 1997, although it may have been applied to her work for many years.

Her elegant personal style and intellectual temperament mask a zeal to take risks. She covered both Chechen wars despite Russia’s ban on outside journalists. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, she went to Afghanistan report from the front line of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. During that trip, when journalists in the convoy were ambushed and killed, Ms. Garrels decided it would be safer for her to go it alone‌ and embarked on a two-day bus trip to Kabul herself.‌

Along the way, she collected stories from people around her to report on the war numbers, wrote letters by candlelight, and sent them by satellite phone.

Deborah Amos, an NPR reporter who has worked with Ms. Garrels abroad, said in a phone interview last year for this obituary: “She was relentless, relentless. “She took every risk you could take.”

She couldn’t fault it either. When the war in Ukraine began in February, Ms. Garrels, long retired from NPR and undergoing treatment for cancer, proposed a proposal to resolve the conflict.

The network refused to send it to her, so instead, she helped set up a nonprofit relief organization, support-ukraine.orgraise funds to send supplies to the Ukrainians.

Unlike some reporters, who parachute into hot spots and move on, Ms. Garrels often goes back to her earlier reports and exploits. – Russian center for 20 years.

Her most acclaimed reporting was during the 2003 Iraq war. More than 500 journalists, including more than 100 Americans, covered the war. But once the United States began the all-out bombing campaign known as “Shocked and amazed,” she was one of 16 American reporters who did not join the U.S. military to stay — and for a time the only American cyber correspondent to continue broadcasting from central Baghdad.

With vivid coverage often picked up by other broadcasters, Ms. Garrels – and her safety – has become a story of its own.

When she got home, other reporters interviewed her about her ordeal. She talks about using Kit Kat chocolate bars and Marlboro Lights, showering by collecting water in giant trash cans, and powering her devices by attaching cables to the car batteries she uses. stuck in my hotel room every night.

Mrs. Garrels told Terry Gross, host of the NPR show “Fresh Air”, which she hadn’t thought of staying in Baghdad. “My gut instinct tells me I’ll be fine,” she says, in part because she has worked with a very capable debugger.

She admitted to Ms Gross that she used to worry about being held hostage, but she said she was often so exhausted at night that she “sleeped like a baby after the bombing”. .

What really scared her, she said, was the thought of not being able to tell a story as good as she wanted it to be. “I don’t write easily,” she said. “It’s a painful process.”

Years later, Mrs. Garrels said in an interview NPR that while in Baghdad, she went through an important journalistic reckoning. When U.S. Marines and several Iraqis toppled a giant statue of Saddam Hussein, the country’s dictator, she quoted upset Iraqis as saying the arrival of American troops was an insult. and predict that Americans will soon resent it. In contrast, she said, the dominant images on television are jubilant crowds cheering for the statue’s fall.

Garrels editors in Washington were watching television and asked her if she wanted to correct her story, because of the dissonance between her words and the television image. No, she told them, emphasizing that her interviews more accurately reflect this moment.

Her version was created by other photojournalists on the ground and by a post-action report by the Army, which says that the Marines more or less managed to topple the statue with a small number of Iraqis in an empty square.

“It was probably one of the most important moments for me as a reporter,” she said, as it reinforced her instinct to trust her own reporting.

Her ability to find deeper reality became a hallmark of her reporting.

In 2003, she received the George Polk Award “for persistent bombings, power outages, hunger and intimidation reporting from the besieged Iraqi capital Baghdad”. The next year, she was a member of the NPR team that won duPont-Columbia Award and a Peabody Award for its Iraq coverage.

Anne Longworth Garrels was born on July 2, 1951 in Springfield, Mass. Her father, John C. Garrels Jr., was the chief executive officer and later president and chief executive officer of the chemical company Monsanto. Her mother, Valerie (Smith) Garrels, is a homemaker.

When Anne was about eight years old, the family moved to London because of her father’s job. Anne attended St. Catherine in Bramley, south-west London, and then enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont in 1968.

Laura Palmer, who met Ms Garrels when they both worked at ABC News in the mid-1970s, said: ‘She was originally going to be a doctor. “A chemistry professor at Middlebury told her she should learn Russian. She was never sure why. But she moved to Harvard and fell in love with Russian and everything about the country.”

Ms. Garrels graduated in 1972 with a degree in Russian. In 1975, she took a job as a researcher at ABC News; since she knows Russian, she was sent to Moscow. ABC soon promoted her to the position of head of the Moscow office. Her difficult reporting on topics such as lack of housing, loneliness, and suicide prompted authorities to deport her in 1982.

After Russia, ABC sent Ms. Garrels to cover the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua. NBC then hired her in 1985 as a State Department correspondent in Washington.

In Washington, she met James Vinton Lawrence, whom she married in 1986. Mr. Lawrence, who worked for the CIA in the 1960s, became a famous cartoonist, mainly for The New Republic.

She joined NPR in 1988 and worked in the Moscow office. Upon leaving Moscow in 1998, she and Lawrence sold their home in Washington and moved into his family’s property in Norfolk, northwest Connecticut.

Ms. Garrels’ first book, “Naked in Baghdad,” was published in 2003. The title refers to her habit of working in her room at the Palestine hotel without clothes. As strange as it may seem, she explained that if Iraqi security forces banged on her door, they would give her time to get dressed and she would be able to hide her illegal satellite phone.

Ms. Garrels retired from NPR in 2010, although she remains a contributor. Her constant reports from Chelyabinsk, a military-industrial city in Russia, formed the basis for her second book, “Putin’s Country: A Journey into Real Russia”. It was published in 2016 – the same year she underwent her first treatment for lung cancer and the year her husband died of leukemia.

In addition to her brother, Ms. Garrels is survived by her sister, Molly Brendel, and her stepdaughters, Rebecca Lawrence and Gabrielle Strand.

Her husband, Mr. Lawrence, once said that Ms. Garrels has two speeds: When she returns from overseas, she flips an internal switch and switches from battle mode to rest mode. In times of boredom, he said, she is often quite confused, unable to navigate into town or work on her computer.

But when she was ready for battle again, Mr. Lawrence said, she was back in combat mode again. “All that incompetence goes away,” he said, “and Annie becomes a very capable steel-backed reporter.”

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