Marie Colvin was always getting into jams as a foreign correspondent, covering war zones and acquiring an eye patch after an ambush in Sri Lanka, recalls her brother William Colvin. The retired NYPD detective says his big sister always had stories when she would come home to visit about how she managed to find her way out of dangerous situations.
"I didn't know she was in Syria until last night," he said Wednesday, standing in the driveway of the home where he, his sister and three other siblings grew up on the north shore of Long Island. He had just learned hours earlier that Marie Colvin had been killed by shelling in the besieged Syrian city of Homs.
"I watched the news last night about Syria, and I didn't feel good about it at all because she was right in the middle of it," William Colvin said. "She was there 20 or 30 times, and she's always gotten out."
Colvin, 56, died alongside French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, the French government announced. Freelance photographer Paul Conroy and journalist Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro were wounded. Colvin had been a foreign correspondent for Britain's Sunday Times for more than 25 years, making a specialty of reporting from the world's most dangerous places.
Nothing was going to stop the dedicated journalist from getting the story, said her mother, Rosemarie, who welcomed reporters into the family's home on Wednesday. Rosemarie Colvin said her daughter knew that what turned out to be her last assignment was fraught with peril, and she had been planning to leave Syria — after completing one more story.
"The reason I've been talking to all you guys is that I don't want my daughter's legacy to be 'no comment,'" Rosemarie Colvin said, fighting back tears. "Because she wasn't a 'no comment' person. Her legacy is: Be passionate and be involved in what you believe in. And do it as thoroughly and honestly and fearlessly as you can."
Rosemarie Colvin, a retired English teacher, said from the time her daughter was a young child, she was curious about the world and was active as a teenager in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. The family, Rosemarie Colvin said, was active in local Democratic politics, which she concedes wasn't easy in an area that's been a Republican stronghold since Theodore Roosevelt used his home at nearby Sagamore Hill as a summer White House more than a century ago.
"So she was always out there giving out pamphlets and getting into women's things, the Vietnam War. She was a very big protester. They all marched outside the high school," Rosemarie Colvin recalled.
Her daughter graduated from Oyster Bay High School and then went to Yale, where she intended to become an anthropologist. She took a writing course during her junior year at Yale, and her mother says she was hooked on being a journalist.
She said as her daughter traveled to some of the world's most dangerous places, she always worried for her safety but knew nothing would dissuade her.
"Marie grew up that way. She was always a very determined person and passionate about what she was going to do," she said.
Marie Colvin had been married a number of times but was currently single, William Colvin said. She had no children.
"Being a foreign correspondent is not the type of life that makes it easy to be married," he said. "This is what she did. She had won three British Press Awards. She was a great person."
Rosemarie Colvin said it was still too soon to discuss a funeral since efforts were still under way to retrieve her daughter's body. A service would likely take place near the family's Long Island home, she said.
Other survivors include sisters Cathleen and Eileen and brother Michael. Their father, William Colvin Sr., died in 1977.
William Colvin recalls last seeing his sister during the holidays in 2010.
"She was a wild, fun-loving person; always had a lot of great stories," he said, staring off into space.
"Growing up with her was a lot of fun."