The day Saddam fell

March 19, 2013

By Goran Tomasevic

Why did I go to Iraq? Because it was a big story.

I was there in 2002 for the presidential referendum where Saddam was the only candidate.

I knew there would be a war. I’d begun my post in Jerusalem but I didn’t go there – instead I went to Iraq. As a Serbian national I didn’t need a visa to enter Iraq. I also had experience covering Kosovo and the Balkan war. I arrived at the end of January 2003, and spent three months there.

This was my first big conflict after covering the former Yugoslavia. For me, it was very important to prove myself on the international stage.

It was the day after the Americans fired on our office and killed Taras Protsyuk, who was a good friend of mine, injured Gulf bureau chief, Samia Nakhoul, along with other colleagues. (Watch Reuters Bearing Witness to learn more)

I woke up around 6am and started driving around. Americans had captured most of the city already. I went to see Samia in the hospital and then came back to our hotel, which was surrounded by Americans, to file some pictures. I was really out of myself after what had happened to Taras.

Francesca, one of our London editors, called me and told me the Saddam statue was coming down. I went down there and took pictures of this guy looking at the statue. I came closer to him and had the perfect picture – a U.S. Marine looking at a statue pulled down by Americans. I didn’t expect this picture to be in so many publications.

At first I was sad because I had risked my life so often in the past and this one had become one of my most famous pictures. But I guess it does show the end of the Saddam era and I am satisfied that so many journalists and photographers remember my picture.

A Lieutenant sent me an email once asking me to send him the original file and I was really happy to do it but somehow I lost his email. Many times I’ve asked the U.S. military about trying to find the Marine in the picture but without success. If the gentleman sees this post, I’d kindly ask him to contact me.

(View 45 iconic images from the Iraq war with behind-the-scenes photographer accounts)

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