Sunday, March 30, 2008

A moment of silence, please

NY Times file photo

Dith Pran, the Cambodian-born New York Times photographer who shared a Pulitzer Prize with reporter Sidney Schanberg in 1976, has died. He passed away earlier today of pancreatic cancer at a hospital in New Jersey. He was 65.
Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant for Schanberg in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, when the Vietnam War reached its chaotic end in April 1975 and both countries were taken over by Communist forces.

Schanberg helped Dith's family get out but was forced to leave his friend behind after the capital fell; they were not reunited until Dith escaped four and a half years later. Eventually, Dith resettled in the United States and went to work as a photographer for the Times.

It was Dith himself who coined the term "killing fields" for the horrifying clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered on his desperate journey to freedom.

Diagnosed three months ago with the disease that would take his life so swiftly, he used his diagnosis to promote awareness and early cancer screenings.

The world could use a few more Dith Prans.

I hope he comes back.