A Somber Homecoming

Paul Douglas and James Brolan, a CBS News camera crew, both killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad on May 29, 2006.
CBS
Three days after the bombing, Paul Douglas and James Brolan came home to Britain. A somber service at London's Heathrow Airport marked their return, as their flag-draped coffins arrived.

"And this, quite frankly, is the day we've always dreaded. This was always the day of the unspoken horror and now it's happened," CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips said at the time.

So many families have lost someone in Iraq — now Geri Brolan and Linda Douglas and all of their children understand what that means.

"He was just everything to us as a family," says Linda Douglas, who was married to Paul for 30 years. "He was strong. He looked after us. He was just our life."

At the CBS bureau in Baghdad, colleagues videotaped the rooms of Paul and James to help preserve the memory of who they were.

In James' room was his prized guitar. Music was his way to break the tension.

"He was the guy from whom the wisecrack came that made a pretty unbearable, untenable situation bearable," says Mark Phillips. "If you were stuck in Afghanistan or stuck in Iraq or stuck wherever you were stuck for however long you were stuck there, people would fight over having James as part of their crew because it would just be that much less bad to have him there."

In Paul's room lay an unfinished book, and an empty camera case.

Linda was never afraid when Paul went off to war zones; he jokingly assured her that bullets would bounce right off him. This time was different.

"A week before he left, Kelly was in the kitchen — my oldest daughter — and he was talking about Baghdad in quite a sad way. And Kelly said to him, 'But dad, bullets bounce off of you.' And he turned around for the very, very first time and said to her, 'But they may not,'" Linda recalls. "I just wonder somewhere deep down in his subconscious, he knew."

Producer Kate Rydell is haunted by her decision to push the Army to get James on that mission. Asked if she feels guilty that she insisted, Rydell tells Katie Couric, "I do. I blame myself for especially what happened to James. I do."

"But it's not your fault," Couric remarks.

"Everybody says that, but I can't help thinking that I wasn't foreseeing the situation clearly enough, that I should have just let Paul and Kimberly go, and that maybe James would be here today," Rydell says.

In a haze of grief and pain, Kimberly Dozier was flown from the hospital in Germany to one in the States.

"When we got to the Air Force Base in Germany, as I was being flown out, there were a number of crews on the tarmac," Dozier remembers. "I wanted to hide. I was ashamed. What am I supposed to be? Triumphant? Paul and James, I've lost them."

She arrived at The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., nine days after the attack. There, she endured more than a dozen surgeries to clean and close her wounds.

Skin had to be harvested from her back to patch up her shredded legs; her surgeon lost count after 2,000 stitches.