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A grain of wheat

It is a sad day for journalism with the loss of a very fine photojournalist.

You’ll hear a lot about what others felt about Anja Niedringhaus in the coming days, and what precisely her loss represents to them.

But you might learn even more about Anja by reading what she had to say about someone she encountered in the heat of conflict. And met again some time afterwards. With a grain of wheat.

Saturday, June 4, 2011 photo, U.S. Army Chief Spc. Jenny Martinez holds the hand of injured U.S. Marine Cpl. Britt Burness  onboard a medevac helicopter © Anja Niedringhaus

Saturday, June 4, 2011 photo, U.S. Army Chief Spc. Jenny Martinez holds the hand of injured U.S. Marine Cpl. Britt Burness onboard a medevac helicopter © Anja Niedringhaus

He saw me and that warm smile crossed his face again. He hugged me. Like that day in the helicopter when I held his hand, it seemed he did not want to let go. He kept repeating: “Oh man, it is so good to see you.”

In his room, his dark brown eyes sparkled and he tried to tell jokes. He explained what he had been through since we had last seen each other.

Doctors put him into a coma for a month and when he woke up, he was he was at the hospital in Virginia.

He had just started to regain his speech, working his way back from months of “thumbs up, thumbs down conversation,” says his 22-year-old wife, Jessica.

He will undergo more surgeries next year to rebuild his skull.

Sitting on his bed, he looked at me and asked: “Did you bring some pictures with you?” He wanted to see those moments in the helicopter.

He studied each photo. When he looked up, he had tears in his eyes. “Thank you so much,” he said.

Text @ Anja Niedringhaus

This is why photography matters, and why ‘good’ photojournalists deserve our utmost respect; in life, and in death.

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