isabel-seliger

Helen was 82. She’d survived both breast cancer and outlived her husband.

One summer day she began bleeding from her colon and was admitted to the hospital. We assumed the worst — another cancer. But after she endured a series of scans and being poked with scopes, we figured out that she had an abnormal jumble of blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation in the wall of her colon.

The finding surprised us, but the solution was clear: Surgery to remove that part of her colon should stop the bleeding once and for all. The operation went well. But afterward Helen’s lungs filled with fluid from congestive heart failure. Then she caught pneumonia and had to be put on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Her medical problems and our treatments had simply stressed her aging organs beyond their capability.

Why Immortality Is Overrated

Illustration: Isabel Seliger for NPR

NPR journalists David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna died a year ago this week, ambushed on a remote road in southern Afghanistan while on a reporting assignment traveling with the Afghan National Army.

Since their deaths, NPR has been investigating what happened, and today we are sharing new information about what we learned. It’s a very different story from what we originally understood.

The two men were not the random victims of bad timing in a dangerous place, as initial reports indicated. Rather, the journalists’ convoy was specifically targeted by attackers who had been tipped off to the presence of Americans in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

Gilkey, an experienced photojournalist, and Tamanna, an Afghan reporter NPR hired to work with him, were sitting together in a Humvee when they were attacked.

“After the loss of our colleagues, we wanted to be sure we understood what really happened on the road that day,” said Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director at NPR. “So we kept reporting.”

Not A Random Attack: New Details Emerge From Investigation Of Slain NPR Journalists

Illustration: Isabel Seliger for NPR
Caption: Journalists David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna were killed on the road to Marjah, Afghanistan, last year during a reporting trip.

Walking among the California redwoods, drifting blank-brained on a break from college, I got to thinking about shoes. I can’t say why, exactly. Perhaps it was because they were touching my feet.

My own shoes were performing admirably, I must admit. I was trudging on mud and bugs and roots and who knows what without feeling much of anything.

And that, I realized in a flash, was a problem. Not that I had been stepping on gross stuff and snuffing out the lives of little things that, frankly, may not have deserved it. The problem was that I really couldn’t tell.

Life and death and dog poop — it all basically felt the same underfoot.

Invisibilia: The Unbearable Lightness Of Footwear

Illustration: Isabel Seliger for NPR