Students Marie Colvin and Donna Fiore Houman often wondered about the lives of the slain Vietnam War soldiers whose portraits lined the walls of Oyster Bay High School in the 1970s.
In 2012, Colvin, an award-winning war correspondent for The Sunday Times of London for 27 years, died covering Syria’s civil war; Houman sought to have Colvin’s portrait hang in the school.
On Saturday, students who graduated with Colvin in 1974 gathered on the Oyster Bay campus, where a library was named in Colvin’s honor.
Her portrait at the library’s entrance, a plaque and Colvin’s quotes on the walls — such as “Courage Knows No Gender” and “My Job is to Bear Witness” — are gifts from the class.
“She wanted to understand and find the truth, and she wanted to share it with the world in the hope that all of us who care take action,” her sister Cathleen Colvin, 49, said at the ceremony, which coincided with the class’ 40th reunion.
Colvin’s family and friends remembered the East Norwich native as a fearless woman; she read voraciously and empathized with the people she interviewed in the war zones.
Houman, 58, reunion committee chairwoman, said the Vietnam soldiers’ images made an impression on her and she hoped Colvin’s portrait would spark the same curiosity in today’s students.
A Yale University graduate, Colvin, 56, wore a signature black patch over the left eye she lost to an exploding hand grenade in Sri Lanka in 2001. She was killed Feb. 22, 2012, in a rocket attack in Homs, Syria, where she was covering a government crackdown on rebel forces.
After she died, Stony Brook University started the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting.
Howard Schneider, the founding dean of Stony Brook’s journalism school, said independent, courageous international reporting is more important now than ever, and it can’t be done over the Internet.
“You need to be there. You need to bear witness. You need to be really courageous and you need to tell the rest of the world that story,” said Schneider, a former editor of Newsday.
Cathleen Colvin said her sister’s ability to absorb people’s stories made her reporting poignant. “She took the time to listen and really get to know the people she interviewed.”
“And through a deep knowledge of politics, history and culture, she was able to put their words into a larger context that made sense to her readers,” her sister said.
Colvin’s elementary school librarian fed her curiosity with books, which helped Colvin break out of her shell as a child, her sister said. Books kept her mind occupied on sleepless nights as she sat in a straight back chair in her London home reading, her sister said.
Oyster Bay Principal Dennis O’Hara said the library is “a space that not only represents learning but now symbolizes humility, extreme courage and service above self.”
Colvin’s mother, Rosemarie Colvin, 82, said dedicating a library in her daughter’s honor was fitting. “From the time she was just a baby, the word was everything to her,” she said.
Author: Darran Simon
Published: October 11, 2014