James Foley's death creates a moment of clarity


A parishioner holds a prayer card in memory of James Foley after a Catholic mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish August 24, 2014, in Rochester, New Hampshire. The family and friends of murdered US journalist James Foley attended the memorial mass and offered prayers for the safety of his fellow hostages in Syria.


Dominick Reuter

SYDNEY, Australia — As a final-year medical student, even in my darkest and most stressful hours prior to exams and assessments, I still think some small part of me wants to change the world. I wonder what kind of doctor I should become in order to do this. I wonder where I should work. I wonder if I should go into family practice instead, and just play it safe: have nice patients, a nice car and a nice, easy life. 

Then we are confronted with unexpected and tragic news that shakes us out of our comfort zones and off our paths of least resistance. When I read about the murder of US journalist James Foley, it struck a deep chord in my heart and mind. Rather than scaring or deterring me, it reminded me of the reasons why I was working so hard to become a doctor and it made me want to change the world even more.

Foley stands as a courageous individual whose life and sacrifice have touched people like me, a 28-year-old female medical student who lives in another country and exists in a different world.

In my mind and heart, his simple courage and conviction to report what is right and what is true, to represent what is good about journalism in a free society, shines like a beacon of light.

We live in a world full of uncertainty and mixed agendas. Political innuendo becomes so confusing it sometimes feels as if we are living in a dark, dense fog. Jim Foley’s death gives us a moment of clarity; it draws open a heavy curtain revealing a world in disarray and gives us a chance to see.

Foley lived a life driven by the values of a free press and free expression. He pursued a story where truth and reality were dauntingly difficult to discern. In Liberia and Syria, he exposed human suffering, knowing that much of the world would rather forget these victims. His reporting opened our eyes, gave purpose to people in places where our skills can be invested in helping people most in need.

Jim Foley’s story inspires young people like me to live a better life, to be brave, to champion humanity. The purpose of his journey lives on through the people he has touched, through his reporting, through his captivity, through his death.

I know that because I am one of them.

Images of his death, so far away from home and family, remind me of who I am and why I want to become a doctor. Jim Foley gave his life to make me see and rediscover the conviction that my purpose in life is to heal.

Sonia Henry is a medical student from Sydney, Australia, who begins work as a junior doctor in January at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. She wrote this personal reflection because she says the recent news of the death of US journalist James Foley has affected her deeply.

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