The Cutline

As journalist who lost legs in Afghanistan gets back to work, another killed amid Taliban attacks

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

Joao Silva, the New York Times photojournalist who lost his legs to a landmine nine months ago in Afghanistan, made a triumphant return to the Gray Lady's pages with an A1 photo heralded by his colleagues.

Silva, a contract photographer, was on assignment last Oct. 23 with Times reporter Carlotta Gall, shadowing American troops on patrol near a small Afghan village, when he stepped on the mine.

At the time, Times executive editor Bill Keller told the newsroom: "He will be missed until--as I have no doubt he will--he returns to action, cameras blazing."

That moment came Wednesday, when Silva documented the closing ceremony for Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he has been a patient since he returned the United States to recuperate last year. One of his photos ran alongside a front-page story about the event written by Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise.

As the Times' Lens blog reports: "He was smiling. He was walking on his prosthetic legs. And he was taking pictures." You can view the front-page photo, in which "soldiers and guests watched a parachute demonstration," according to the accompanying caption, below:

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(New York Times/nytimes.com)

Silva's Walter Reed assignment was serendipitous. A Times photo editor, according to the Lens blog, thought to ask Silva to pick up the assignment since he would be on hand for the ceremony anyway. But it turned out Silva beat them to the punch--he was already shooting the event out of personal interest. The Lens blog also reports that Silva, seen in the video above taking his first steps since losing his legs, will transfer to the nearby National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for outpatient care, and that he has entered November's New York marathon.

A Times spokeswoman confirmed to The Cutline that "Silva will continue working for the Times and eventually return in a full-time capacity when he is ready."

Some of Silva's Times colleagues took to Twitter to express their elation.

"Seriously, what a badass. Joao Silva is my hero. Truly inspiring," wrote Liz Heron, a social media editor at the paper.

"How wonderful is it to see a photograph by Joao on page one today?" asked Times Bagdhad bureau chief Tim Arango, while war correspondent C.J. Chivers chimed in: "Chin high."

Silva's recovery is an uplifting story in a year marked by far grimmer news of journalists being detained, beaten, kidnapped and killed while reporting in danger zones.

Indeed, Thursday reports confirmed that a Taliban offensive had claimed the life of a BBC stringer in Afghanistan.

The correspondent, Omid Khpalwak, was among 17 killed amid suicide bombings and gunfire, which occurred in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, according to AFP. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter claimed Khpalwak was killed not by the Taliban, but by NATO forces responding to the deadly attacks.

In a separate tweet, Afghan-based journalist Jerome Starkey called Khpalwak "an excellent ... reporter, husband, father and a good man."

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