My friend Joe Duran just called me after many months. I’d last seen him in November in Istanbul. Now, he was calling from his native Mexico, where he’d gone on vacation and also to sort through boxes of old things he stored at his house there.
“Moni, guess what I found?” he said.
I have no idea what’s about to come next.
“You know when you asked me about the tapes of Baby Noor? The raw tapes are all here in a box,” he said, coughing from the dust he’d whipped up.
I’d called Joe back in January asking if he had access to the footage he shot of Noor, the infant with spina bifida who American soldiers helped save by shuttling her out of her home in Abu Ghraib and sending her to Atlanta for surgery. Without the operations, she would surely have died.
I was an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter embedded with the Georgia Army National Guard unit that came upon Noor during a routine raid. I wrote about her for the newspaper and several days later, Joe arrived with camera in hand to file a story for CNN.
Our friendship was sealed in the throes of war. When I reconnected with Noor’s family in Iraq earlier this year, I called Joe about the footage. Turns out most of it was in the CNN system and I didn’t need his tapes. But it was good to talk to him about the stories we did back then.
“I can’t believe it’s been seven years,” he said.
I can’t either.
Except that I saw Noor again a few weeks ago.
I was not prepared to see a little girl who could speak and read and write. A girl who fancied pretty dresses and demanded her hair be embellished with colorful clips. She had grown so much.
I returned to Iraq to find her and tell the story of how she was faring all these years later, long after everyone in America who had been involved had lost touch with her.
It was strange that Joe called me out of the blue on the day before the story published on CNN.com.
Here is the link to the story: