On Memorial Day 2006, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier and her crew were on patrol with the military in Iraq. A car bomb explosion killed cameraman Paul Douglas, soundman James Brolan, Army Captain Alex Funkhouser, and their Iraqi translator known only as Sam. Kimberly was critically injured herself. She lost more than half her blood because the explosion smashed both her femurs, scorched her muscle and skin from hips to ankles, and lodged some shrapnel near her brain. Though she technically died five times after reaching the hospital, the medical teams were able to save her. Kimberly endured a painful and grueling recovery, and now shares her story in the book “Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Report- and Survive – the War in Iraq.” Here’s an excerpt from my recent “Christopher Closeup” interview with Kimberly during which she discusses the spiritual side of her recovery.
TR: You write in the book about your own background as a Christian. You even considered being a member of the Episcopal clergy for a while. So I’m wondering – when you were recovering in the hospital, did you have any mental conversations with God about what happened or why?
Kimberly Dozier: Absolutely. It came down to, “What am I going to do with this? I’ve had this horrible tragedy happen. I’m still alive. Why’d you leave me here? Obviously I’ve got something else to do. What is it?” And yeah, you have the selfish response (that) you don’t want the responsibility of this when you have lived and the people with you have not. Trying to turn that into something positive, trying to find the right words to say to the family members of those who’ve been lost – that’s a burden I didn’t want. It’s a privilege I didn’t want. You’re thankful and you are saddled with something you never thought you’d have to deal with. Someone explained to me once that grief is a gift, that going through something like this gives you lessons that you then have to pass on. And that’s been one of the hardest parts of this because, what I write about in the book, especially the first few months when I came back to work, so many people came up to me and wanted to talk about horrible things that they’d been through…For a while there, it just got (to be) too much. I couldn’t handle it and I started skulking around back hallways at CBS because I didn’t know how to help these people. That’s part of the reason why I decided, “Okay, I’ll write this darn book. I’ll put it all out there.”
TR: At one point in your book “Breathing the Fire,” you write, “The more horrors I saw overseas, the more my own Christian faith came to the fore.” Some people see suffering and violence, and it moves them away from God. Why did it move you more toward God?
Kimberly Dozier: I guess I’ve never held God responsible for some of the horrors that I see. The things that we are able to do to each other either in the name of government, ideology or God – it is soul shaking. But I guess you take refuge in your faith. You also see the positive things out there, the people who risk their lives to save someone else or risk their lives to protect a community. That restores your faith as much as the horrors you’re seeing shake it…
TR: You said that you dealt with the guilt of surviving and the grief of losing your colleagues. But are you carrying around any anger at the people who did this? Is that something that weighs on your mind or have you moved past that also?
Kimberly Dozier: Both the guilt and the anger you’ve got to leave behind. They’re destructive emotions…In terms of being angry at the men who blew up the car bomb – as I understood from the U.S. military, they were taken down that night. They were in a cell in an apartment block overlooking the bomb scene. That’s how they watched to see us get close enough and then triggered the 500 pound car bomb. I can’t see inside their minds. I hate their methods, but I also know as a reporter on the ground there were things happening like accidental shooting incidents. Up to ten Iraqis a day were being killed, one high-ranking U.S. commander told me, due to accidental shootings at checkpoints. Was one of those men – had he lost his family to something like that? And it was a Sunni Al-Quaeda splinter group that got taken down. Now we are, as part of the awakening, we the coalition are talking to those Sunni groups, (we’ve) won them over, and they’re now our present day allies. So you can’t draw any sorts of absolutes in the Middle East. The lines are always changing.
TR: You write in the book that prayer helped you through a lot of those difficult times when you were recovering. Is it still a help to you now?
Kimberly Dozier: It’s always been a part of my life and always will (be) for our whole family. It’s one of those things, when I go overseas and meet someone who is either a Shiite imam or an Orthodox priest, it’s that bridge that helps us relate and understand. In the Middle East, it’s a community full of people of faith. They respect you and understand you better and vice versa when you are strong in your own faith.
(To listen to the full interview, visit www.christophers.org/closeuppodcast)