ABC news correspondent and former anchor Bob Woodruff was nearly killed by a roadside bomb on Jan. 29, 2006 in Iraq. He suffered a severe brain injury and was in a coma for over a month. He and his wife Lee have written a new memoir about his recovery, In An Instant: A Family’s Journey Of Love And Healing. Here’s an excerpt of the first chapter:
Orlando, Florida, January 28, 2006
The Sunday morning phone call pierced the quiet and I jolted awake to a bedspread of floral and chintz in a totally unfamiliar room. It took me a second to register where I was. Ah, right, I thought. Disney World. The wake-up call.
I rolled over and picked up the receiver. “Thank you,” I said, and lazily began to set it back on the cradle. I had decided to lie there for a few more minutes before I snuck out the door.
“Lee?” A faint voice came from the receiver, now almost back in place. Geesh, I thought. Personalized wake-up calls, how very Disney. I brought the phone back to my ear to thank the man.
“Lee, it’s David Westin,” the voice said.
He had my immediate attention. My brain fired signals to my body as I bolted up on the pillows. The president of ABC News does not make social calls to employees’ wives at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, even a co-anchor’s wife. I licked my lips and swallowed. My mouth was dry.
“We’ve been trying to reach you,” he said, in a slow measured voice. He stopped for a beat as if to gauge how he would say his next line. “Bob has been wounded in Iraq.”
I sat straight up, trying to process the information I was hearing. Every synapse in my brain was firing. “Wounded?” I said to David Westin, as calmly as I could. “What do you mean wounded?”
“He was on an embed outside of Baghdad riding with the Iraqi army. We don’t have a lot of information right now, Lee, but we are getting it as fast as we can. We are getting him the best care possible.”
“David.” I interrupted him. “Is my husband alive?”
“Yes, Lee. Bob is alive, but we believe he may have taken shrapnel to the brain.”
I tried to digest what that meant and couldn’t comprehend it. He was alive; I’d start with that. The rest was gravy.
You can’t know how you would behave in a crisis until it drops out of the sky and knocks you down like a bandit: stealing your future, robbing you of your dreams, and mocking anything that resembles certainty. Sudden tragic events and even slow-burning disasters teach us more about ourselves than most of us care to know.
“Lee, we have a plane waiting to take you and the kids home to Westchester,” David said. “You just have to tell us what time. It’s fueled up and ready to go.”
I felt I needed to keep him on the line for some reason. I wasn’t ready to start making decisions. I didn’t want to take my first step into this new world. I wanted to relish my old life for just a minute more. All four of my children were blissfully sound asleep beyond my door. Inside my room their secure little lives were being hacked apart while they dreamed, oblivious to the chaos.