'I think we're finished now': Canadian journalist recalls Afghanistan shooting
Published Wednesday, December 3, 2014 8:44AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 3, 2014 11:35AM EST
Last April, Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon and photographer Anja Niedringhaus were in eastern Afghanistan on assignment, when a police officer suddenly opened fire on their parked vehicle. In the moments after she was shot, Gannon remembers thinking they were dying and recalls uttering to her long-time colleague: "I think we're finished now."
Gannon, who originally hails from Timmins, Ont., told CTV's Canada AM that when she saw the extent of her injuries she believed she wouldn’t survive.
"I looked down and I couldn't move, and my hand was separated from my wrist," she said. "I looked over at Anja... and so much was going through my mind, and I remember saying 'I think we're finished now.'"
Gannon asked their driver and translator to take them to the nearest hospital, and as she waited for help, the veteran Associated Press journalist started to say her goodbyes to family and friends.
"I thought 'I've had a good life; I've had a great life. I've been really lucky,'" she said. "And then I just closed my eyes and thought about my parents."
Gannon was shot six times during the attack and survived. Niedringhaus did not.
Gannon will be honoured for her work Wednesday night during the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Gala in Toronto. For her courage, Gannon will be awarded the Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award, which recognizes a Canadian journalist whose work reinforces the principle of freedom of the press.
The gala will also feature an exhibit showing some of Niedringhaus' iconic photos taken in Iraq, Kuwait, Gaza, Libya and Afghanistan.
'When they hit you, your body jerks'
Gannon remembers many details about the day she and Niedringhaus were attacked.
It was April 4 – the day before the Afghan presidential election – and the two were in the province of Khost and were preparing to travel with a convoy to transport ballots to an outlying area. The goal of their trip was to report on how Afghan citizens were responding to the election in an area considered a Taliban stronghold.
On that fateful day, a man walked up to their parked vehicle with an AK-47 and opened fire. He surrendered after emptying his weapon.
Gannon said she has no recollection of seeing her assailant, and at first thought a bomb had gone off close to their vehicle.
"I remember at the very end, when the last shots were being fired, because when they hit you, your body jerks," she said. "I thought there had been an explosion, but then I could smell the gunpowder so I realized I had been shot."
She said it wasn't until she woke up the next day in a hospital in Kabul that she understood that Niedringhaus had died. "When I woke up in Kabul at the French military hospital, I realized that she didn't make it," she said.
Gannon was flown to the U.S. where she began her recovery.
Return to Afghanistan
Despite her incredible ordeal, Gannon said that once she's fully recovered she has every intention of returning to the country where she nearly lost her life.
"I'll go back to Afghanistan and I'll go to Pakistan,” she said, noting that before the shooting, both her and Niedringhaus were resolved to remain in Afghanistan despite the violence.
“No crazy gunman is going to drive me out of any country or make that decision for me," she said.
Gannon, who has spent more than 20 years covering Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, said the stories and people's she's encountered throughout her career motivate her to return.
"It's a beautiful country," she said. "The people are wonderful; the story is incredible --- none of that has changed with the shooting. So for sure, I'll go back."
With files from The Associated Press