Journalists honored

Four remembered in cermony at state park

Four remembered in cermony at state park

October 02, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

GATHLAND STATE PARK - The memory of NBC war correspondent David Bloom brought Susan Witmer to the ceremony Wednesday morning at the War Correspondents Memorial Arch on South Mountain to honor four U.S. war correspondents who died covering the war on terrorism.

"I greatly admired him. I enjoyed starting Saturday and Sunday mornings with him," Witmer said. Bloom used to host the weekend edition of the Today show.

"When he went to Iraq, I was terrified and, obviously, I was justified," said Witmer, 44, of Frederick, Md.

Witmer was one of more than 200 spectators, journalists, family, friends, and politicians at Wednesday's dedication of a plaque in honor of Bloom, Daniel Pearl, Michael Kelly and Elizabeth Neuffer.


A light rain that persisted through the early morning ceased shortly before the ceremony began, and sunlight fell on the proceedings across the street from the 50-foot stone arch.

This was the first time since the arch's construction in 1896 that new names were honored at the memorial in Gathland State Park. The park straddles the Washington County/Frederick County line. The arch is in Frederick County.

The plaque will be on display in one of the Gathland State Park museum buildings before being installed on the stone retaining wall below the arch, said Sgt. Al Preston with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The event attracted several dignitaries, including speakers Tom Brokaw from "NBC Nightly News," Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

"I was among millions of those touched by the lives of these four," Wolfowitz said.

Wolfowitz said he met The Boston Globe's Neuffer when she had covered previous wars and met Kelly of The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post during the first Iraq war.

"I miss him enormously," Wolfowitz said.

"I was among thousands in the Department of Defense who watched, entranced by Bloom," Wolfowitz said. "His enthusiasm was infectious and he brought news often before we got it from (some other place)."

Wolfowitz said he prayed when Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl was kidnapped by terrorists in January 2002 in Pakistan and was horrified by his murder.

Wolfowitz said the four put the headlines on their own stories with their sacrifices and dedication to the truth.

Norton called the four journalists symbols of what many have sacrificed to maintain freedom of the press.

"As their names become part of this memorial, their deeds become a part of our nation's history," Norton said.

Brokaw reminded everyone that there still are journalists in harm's way as they chronicle the U.S. military's activities in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

"News organizations are sending only their best and brightest to cover this war," Brokaw said. "And the four that we honor here today are emblematic of those decisions."

They shone their intelligence, curiosity, empathy and courage on the terrible events they witnessed, Brokaw said.

Sharpsburg resident Joe Eichelberger, 62, said he attended the ceremony to show his respect.

"We just take the newspaper for granted. We pick up the paper and read it and think that's all there is to it. That's not it at all," Eichelberger said.

"It was wonderful to be part of history here," said Lisa Deener, 36, who lives about a half mile from the arch.

Deener's neighbor, Monica Paire, took her three children to the ceremony. The experience will become a home-schooling lesson for William, 8; Spencer, 6; and Leah, 2.

"Sometimes we walk up here with the kids and try to absorb some of the Civil War history," she said. Paire said she never thought more names would be added to the memorial.

Now that journalists from the war on terrorism have been honored at the memorial, Col. Rick Barton said he expects war correspondents from other wars to be honored similarly.

"I hope we do this again," said Barton, superintendent of the State Forest & Park Service.

Barton and former Army Secretary Jack Marsh each came up with the idea separately last spring to honor war correspondents who had died recently at the memorial.

Marsh said he was inspired by the major change in policy to embed journalists with military units during the war.

"They, in effect, became part of the units," Marsh said.

Gillies Tardif, 80, of Hagerstown, has been visiting the park for the last 12 years, but said he never paid much attention to the arch.

"So now I know. It was a good experience," Tardif said of the ceremony.

The memorial was commissioned, designed and constructed by George Alfred Townsend to honor the 157 war correspondents and artists of the Civil War. Townsend was the youngest correspondent of that war. The park that is home to the memorial derives its name from Townsend's pen name, Gath.

The triangle of land on which the arch and wall stand are owned by the National Park Service. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources owns the surrounding land.

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