“Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.” Remembering James Wright Foley, 1973-2014

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“We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Diane Foley, mother of the murdered photojournalist James Wright Foley. “He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person.”

As everyone has heard by now, Foley was beheaded by ISIS (or ISIL, or the Caliphate, or whatever it’s calling itself – I prefer calling it by its maiden name, nihilism). He had been kidnapped in northwestern Syria in November 2012. Being the kind of people his captors are, they released a gruesome snuff video to accompany their death announcement. A Facebook friend of mine who had known Foley pleaded on her status line: “I will remember James Wright Foley as I last saw him: laughing, engaged life, intelligent. He was executed today by ISIS. Please, for the love of all things decent and human, do not post or ‘share’ any images from his beheading. I’m begging you. Please allow this courageous journalist the dignity and respect he so deserves. Rest in Peace, James.”

James Foley, Aleppo, Syria - 07/12. Photo: Nicole Tung. Authorized use: alongside article on James Foley's kidnapping in Syria only.

Foley in Aleppo (Photo: Nicole Tung)

Following her lead, I thought the best way to commemorate him might be excerpting some of his writings and a few videos I could find online. Here’s a prophetic one from the Global Post on September 27, 2011, “Why They Fight Muammar Gaddafi”, explaining why some soldiers continued to fight for Gaddafi, a month after the fall of Tripoli. Many fought to protect their families, for others:

The threat of civil war is also likely motivating many soldiers to continue fighting. Omran [a soldier] said that a strong central leader like Gaddafi was needed to prevent the break up of the country.

Even outside observers, and leaders in the West, have expressed concern that Libya could fall into civil war after the last remnants of Gaddafi’s army are defeated. Power struggles between rebels based in the western part of the country and rebels based in the city of Benghazi in the East have already been well documented.

“From the beginning, Gaddafi told us, ‘If I fall down, everything will collapse into tribal and civil conflict.’ I was afraid of city against city, so I was loyal on this matter,” Omran said.

Ibrahim said he didn’t think it was possible for Libya to remain stable without Gaddafi at the helm.

“After two or three years, you will see this … a very sad future under east, west, south — Libya will be split up,” he said.

Muftah Sadik, a loyalist soldier from Sirte who surrendered in July, said those officers who are members of Gaddafi’s tribe in Sirte would never surrender. He guessed that at least two Gaddafi battalions had pulled back from the eastern front to further defend the city.

“Some have the idea, if I’m going to die, let’s fight to the death,” he said.

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In Syria, 2012 (Photo: Manu Brabo)

In April 2011, Foley was detained in Libyan military detention center while working for Global Post. Here’s an excerpt from his short piece for his alma mater, at the Marquette University magazine about his 44-day detention, published

Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.

I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well.

One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”

I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”

Read the whole thing here.  Requiescat in pace, James Wright Foley.


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3 Responses to ““Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.” Remembering James Wright Foley, 1973-2014”

  1. Arielle Emmett Says:

    Thank you for that beautifully written post, Cynthia. I’m very saddened by his death, too, as we all are. I celebrate his courage — and yours.

    arielle emmett

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thank you, Arielle, for the kind words. I didn’t think it was courage, though – I thought I was just saying what everybody thought.

  3. V.E.G. Says:

    Well done, James.

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