It was a typically hot and dusty day in Baghdad — Monday, May 29, 2006, Memorial Day in the United States. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier, cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan were embedded with the U.S. Army's Fourth Infantry Division to produce a report on the fact that it was "just another day at work" for the troops in Iraq — no hot dogs, no burgers and no family outings.
In a war that has claimed the lives of 104 journalists and more than 3,300 American soldiers, the Karradah neighborhood was chosen for the trip because it was thought to be relatively safe, although a bomb had exploded there just the day before.
The device used in the Memorial Day bombing weighed approximately 300 to 500 pounds, was packed into a yellow taxi and was detonated remotely, a scenario all but commonplace in Iraq. The explosion of this car bomb shortly after 10 a.m. that morning was an occurrence seen virtually every day in cities and towns throughout Iraq; its consequences, too, would, sadly, be considered almost routine.
This blast, however, hit home for CBS News, as it killed Douglas and Brolan, as well as Army Capt. James Alex Funkhouser and his Iraqi translator and severely injured Dozier and several members of the Fourth I.D.
"Flashpoint," a CBS News primetime special anchored by Katie Couric, traces the scores of lives forever changed by this single bomb and, in so doing, tells the story of the war in Iraq — the loss, heroism, pain, guilt, luck and, eventually for some, recovery that thousands of people experience. It will be broadcast one year to the day of the attack, Tuesday, May 29, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are responsible for roughly half of the American combat casualties in Iraq. Dozier, who has covered the war in Iraq since 2003, says, "That was one small bomb …You think how many lives, day after day after day, are being torn apart, how many sacrifices are being made. I thought I understood that … I didn't really understand it until I lived through it."
Dozier suffered multiple critical wounds, including shredded upper legs, severe burns to her legs, shrapnel in her head and a blown-out eardrum. She lost a tremendous amount of blood and her heart stopped twice.
Dr. David Steinbruner, who attended to Dozier at the 10th Surgical Hospital in Baghdad just a few hours after the attack, said, "… She was as white as a sheet … Her legs were clearly badly injured and she … seemed to me unconscious … [I] came up to the bedside … just to see if she could breath, if she was alive … And she said to me with closed eyes, with the mask on, 'My name is Kim.' "
Despite that utterance, Dozier was in very bad shape. Dr. Steinbruner recalls the day. "We lose the pulse … so we slam home blood as fast as we can. I get a pulse back. By definition, she died for a moment … I … think of that as being on the edge of a precipice between life and death, and she's … rocking back and forth. She's still alive, but I don't know how much longer."
Dozier's memory of the blast is limited. "I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't see anything, I couldn't hear anything," she says. "I do remember somewhere in all of that … I said, 'Where are my guys? How are my guys?' "
Ultimately, Reed lost his lower right leg. Farrar had his knee blown out, has a titanium rod in his jaw and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, still unable to put on his Army uniform. Potter had to learn to use his hands again.
CBS News crew members Douglas and Brolan and Capt. Funkhouser and his translator, Sam, did not survive the blast. Three days after the bombing, Douglas and Brolan's bodies were flown back to Britain.
At a memorial for the men, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips said, "This … is the day we've always dreaded. This was always the day of the unspoken horror, and now it's happened." Douglas is survived by his wife of 30 years, Linda, two daughters and three grandchildren, while Brolan leaves behind his wife, Geri, and two children.
Capt. Funkhouser, a husband and father of two little girls, was on his first tour of Iraq. The soldiers of his platoon thought of him as "the daddy of the company." His wife, Jennifer, remembered the day she received the news: " … My doorbell rang. The very first thing I saw were two green-suited officers. And I took one look at the captain … and his mouth was just trembling, and I knew right away … I looked at him and I just shook my head and I said, 'I just talked to him yesterday.' "
Funkhouser was the 2,467th American soldier killed in the war in Iraq.
After Dozier was flown to a specialty hospital in Balad, Iraq, for emergency surgery to remove a piece of shrapnel from her skull, she was rushed the following day to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where the most severe U.S. casualties from the war zone are taken. Dozier had several surgeries in Landstuhl, the most critical of which were procedures to insert titanium rods in both legs in order to save them.
Nine days after arriving in Landstuhl, she was transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where she endured more than a dozen surgeries to clean and close her wounds.
And, last summer, Dozier began to learn to walk again.
"To take the first few steps with, first, a walker — it was devastating and depressing. I couldn't believe that I couldn't walk … Then I would look down the hall and see guys who had lost limbs, who had horrible brain injuries … and I'd think, 'I can deal with this … They have a lot more to get through.' "
After five months of physical therapy in New Zealand with her boyfriend and his family, Dozier returned to the U.S. in February this year to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for what she hoped would be the final two surgeries - one to create a new eardrum and the other to remove an outgrowth of bone that had occurred after her legs had essentially been restored, a common but mysterious result of blast injuries.
Now, after more than 25 surgeries — "I went in and out of the O.R. so many times that, like, breathing, it was just another thing I had to do every couple of days," says Dozier —the emotional healing, continues.
"For the first six, seven months, whenever I'd wake up … it would all come back," she says, "what had happened, why I was there, how far I had to go before I could get back to normal … and the people I'd lost, the people we had all lost that day."