Professor’s cousin dies in Syrian bombing


William Mulligan, history professor, sits in his sixth floor Faculty Hall office a day after the death of his cousin. || Austin Ramsey/The News

Meghann Anderson
Staff writer

Hours after Marie Colvin gave a detailed report to CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the situation in Homs, Syria, on Wednesday the London Sunday Times reporter was killed in a shelling attack.

William Mulligan, history professor, is Colvin’s first cousin. He was notified of her death by his mother, who got the call from Colvin’s mother who saw it broadcast on CNN Wednesday morning.

“She was my little cousin, I watched her grow up and go off around the world,” Mulligan said. “I worry about her mother, brothers and sisters. She was a great cousin, a great aunt. The family will rally together; family was very important to her even though job took her away from them.”

French photographer Remi Ochlik was with Colvin and also died in the attack.

Colvin was covering the conflict in Syria, when she and Ochlik were killed in the house where they were reporting in the Baba Amr district when it was shelled by Syrian government forces.

Mulligan said Colvin had always thought people needed to know how bad things really were across the world.

“She believed in the power of journalism,” Mulligan said. “She tried to bring the world the truth, so they would take steps to try and make it better. She put her life on the line and sadly paid a high price.”

He said she had a lot of courage and commitment to let people know what was going in the world. He said she was never afraid.

The internal conflict in Syria has been raging since late 2010, and on May 18, President Barack Obama signed executive order to fight against Bashar al-Assad, to end his use of violence against the Syrian people and begin transitioning to a democratic system that protects their rights.

Colvin was also known for wearing a black eye-patch over her left eye after losing sight in it during an ambush in Sri Lanka in 2001.

“It’s a special sort of thing to find what you love to do and become a professional,” Mulligan said. “Right to the end she was calling attention to a terrible injustice.”

Her last article in the Sunday Times was headlined “We Live in Fear of a Massacre,” and she made her last broadcast Tuesday evening, appearing on BBC, CNN and ITN News via satellite phone.

Colvin wrote in great detail about the living conditions, struggle to survive and uprising in Syria.

Mulligan said his cousin was all about positive change from print journalism.

“It’s tragic, but she knew the risk and we had quite a few conversations about it over the years and why she kept going back,” Mulligan said.

Colvin graduated from Yale University and went to work for the United Press International as bureau chief in Paris. She has spent the last 30 years in London working for the London Sunday Times.

“This is an example of someone who committed their life to what she loved to do,” Mulligan said. “It was dangerous, but when you pick something you love to do the hardships become a little more bearable.