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One of the articles Blair was found to have lied in - 3 April 2003


[What follows is the entire New York Times article, written by Blair and published on 3 April 2003.

The article can be accessed on the paper's website here. The article is The New York Times' copyright but is published here in full. As with all other articles on this site, I ask the publishers to recognise the historical value of having their work readily accessible in one place. This site seeks no commercial gain, only to serve as a resource for the future.

Any questions, queries should be directed to kieren@jaysonblair.com.]


April 3, 2003

Rescue in Iraq and a 'Big Stir' in West Virginia

By Douglas Jehl and Jayson Blair

PALESTINE , W.Va. , April 2 -- Even today, Linda Davies was still clutching the note that Pfc. Jessica Lynch, her former kindergarten student, sent six weeks ago from the desert of Kuwait , set out on pastel paper in a schoolgirl's round handwriting and marveling at how far she had come from her home in rural West Virginia .

''I can say I've been to places that half of Wirt County will never see,'' Private Lynch, 19, wrote with the wonder and awe of a country girl who had not visited Charleston , the state capital, until she graduated from high school but had now embarked on what she plainly saw as a great adventure.

In just a few months, the private wrote on Feb. 21, she had visited Mexico , Germany and Kuwait and now, as a young Army supply clerk, was poised to set out toward Iraq as soon as President Bush gave the order.

''I will still be a teacher,'' Mrs. Davies said in summing up Private Lynch's plans for the future. ''But I want to travel first.''

Private Lynch's friends and relatives never imagined that her travels would include days of captivity in Iraq, a daring rescue by American commandos, and a flight on a military transport plane that rushed her today to a hospital in Germany. [Page B10.]

Her family said military officials told them that she has broken legs and gunshot wounds.

This morning, hours after Private Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital, Ms. Davies and others here said they were sure she had been saved by the power of prayer and by the resilience fostered by her modest West Virginia roots.

''I know there were people all over the world who were praying for Jessi,'' said Ms. Davies, who taught Jessica Lynch in kindergarten 14 years ago and had remained close to her. ''We know a miracle has occurred.''

Outside the Lynch family's tin-roofed, white wood-frame home at the end of a single-lane gravel road, Private Lynch's father, Gregory Lynch Sr., 43, a self-employed truck driver in heavy boots and blue jeans, put it a different way.

''What she has learned growing up in the country and woods, and by what her brother put her through, that kind of prepared her for a lot,'' Mr. Lynch said.

Asked what he might tell his daughter, Mr. Lynch grinned through his exhaustion.

''The little brat's caused a big stir in this county,'' he said, adding: ''As soon as she's capable, we're planning one heck of a big shindig.'' He got his chance to talk to her this afternoon.

Dozens of people, some traveling from more than 100 miles away gathered today outside the home, surrounded by woods and farmland in the heart of Appalachia , to congratulate the family. They listened to a radio on the hill tuned into a popular country music station in Charleston , WQBE-FM, that was playing dedications to Private Lynch all day.

Private Lynch, the second of three children, joined the Army in 2001, not as a career but as a way station, her friends and family said today, a path to the college education that her family could not otherwise afford and, ultimately, to a job as a kindergarten teacher.

It is a route that is not unusual in Wirt County, about 70 miles north of Charleston , with a population of about 5,000 and an unemployment rate of about 15 percent. Private Lynch's older brother, Gregory Jr., 21, enlisted in the Army on the same day as his sister; her younger sister, Brandi, 18, now a high school senior, has also enlisted and is due to begin her military service in August.

But the speed, then the horror, and now the relief of Private Lynch's personal journey has left people in this community overwhelmed, first with shock and now with jubilation for a young woman who had seen little of West Virginia, much less the world, when she left for the Army.

''She kept saying that this is what New York City must be like,'' said Glenda Nelson, a family friend who took Private Lynch on her first visit to Charleston for a shopping trip, just before she left for her Army post at Fort Bliss , Tex.

The two spent several hours shopping for clothes and other items Private Lynch needed, and Ms. Nelson said the young woman was much impressed by the lights and buildings in the state capital, a city of about 200,000.

''She is nothing but a wholesome West Virginia country girl,'' Ms. Nelson said. ''I told her that she needed to get out and see some of the world. I didn't mean Iraq .''

Ms. Nelson and her husband, Donald, sat in their kitchen today, staring at their own letter from Private Lynch, which arrived on Monday. In the time it took the letter, dated March 18, to make its way from Kuwait , Private Lynch's unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, was attacked during some of the first fighting in Nasiriya, she was declared missing in action for five days and yellow ribbons began to pop up all over town.

''We just bawled like babies when we got the letter,'' Mr. Nelson said today. ''It just tore us apart to think of how scared she was or what might have happened to her.''

But on Tuesday, a day after the letter arrived, the Nelsons and just about everyone else in this community quickly learned that the Lynches had received a telephone call saying their daughter had been rescued.

The news sent Wirt County into a frenzy, with friends, relatives, teachers, politicians, state troopers, firefighters and other residents descending upon the Lynch house at the end of Mulberry Lane .

This afternoon, Mr. Nelson said the ordeal just re-emphasized the power of community, prayer and what a special woman Private Lynch is. ''She was smart and gentle, a good country girl,'' he said. ''I think the reason she survived through this is that she is a true angel and God knows that he wants her with us for some more time.''

''I hope to God that the whole country does not forget about what a special hero we have in Jessi Lynch,'' Mr. Nelson added, making clear that he had in mind some antiwar protesters who he believes have been too hard on the soldiers fighting in Iraq .

At Wirt County High School this morning, in Elizabeth , the county seat, the 300 students gathered in a packed auditorium to sing songs like ''God Bless America '' in honor not just of Private Lynch but also of other soldiers, some of them the brothers and cousins of students.

''When students here get out of school,'' said Rodney Watson, the high school softball coach, ''it seems like there are two things they can do, which is either hang on the corner or go off to college or the military, and college takes money.''

He remembers Private Lynch as the feisty right fielder who played for four years on his team. ''Being scrappy probably helped her get through this thing,'' Mr. Watson said.

Gregory Jr., an Army private home on emergency leave from his base at Fort Bragg, N.C., acknowledged he had not been enthusiastic about his sister's decision to join the Army, partly out of brotherly concern and partly because he wondered whether a woman of her small stature could succeed as a soldier.

But he said of his sister: ''She's strong-headed, and now that I've seen Jessi do it, I realize that it's possible.''

This morning both West Virginia University and Marshall University , also in West Virginia , offered Private Lynch financial assistance to attend college and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.

''We've read about her reason for joining the military,'' said David C. Hardesty Jr., the president of West Virginia University , ''and along with her love for her country and her concern for the plight of the Iraqis, she wanted to better her life through a college education.''

Aides to West Virginia 's governor, Bob Wise, a Democrat whose office sent an official to assist the Lynch family the day she disappeared in Iraq , said he was considering issuing a proclamation declaring a ''Jessica Lynch Day.'' The aides said dozens of calls of congratulations from other states have come in for the Lynch family and for West Virginians .

''I really do consider this a miracle in the mountains,'' Governor Wise said.

Ms. Lynch, who will turn 20 on April 26, had been assigned at Fort Bliss with the 507th Maintenance Company. She had recently re-enlisted for another four-year stint and was scheduled to be reassigned to duty in Hawaii starting in November.

From Kuwait , where she arrived with her unit in February, she found time to write to friends like Mrs. Davies and the Nelsons about the decisions that had taken her so far from home. ''I've been traveling so much, but it's cool, because I want to,'' she wrote to Mrs. Davies on Feb. 21, adding: ''Keep me and all soldiers in your prayers and thoughts, and we will do our best to protect you all.''

Apart from brief glimpses of her strapped on a stretcher in video footage on television this morning, Private Lynch's relatives had learned little more about her condition today beyond what they first heard on Tuesday in a 6:15 p.m. telephone call from an Army colonel whom they would not name: that she had been rescued.

Pamela Nicolais, a cousin of Private Lynch, said that a military official told the family that she had ''limped to a hospital in Iraq '' after her unit was ambushed, and had been turned over to Iraqi forces.

Senior military officials provided only a few details about the intelligence that led to Private Lynch's rescue, but family members said they were told that she was located because an Iraqi doctor handed a note to a Marine indicating that she was at a hospital, listed the room number and added that she was being tortured.

Family members said they were told that she had a gunshot wound in the leg that military officials believe occurred during the ambush of her unit. But the family members also said they were heartened by the images they saw on television that showed her looking clear-eyed.

The military did not publicly disclosed Private Lynch's injuries, but one military official confirmed that she did have multiple gunshot wounds and broken bones. No further details about how the injuries occurred were provided.

Through the nine days when Private Lynch was missing, the family held nightly prayer gatherings at their home, relatives said, and her parents in particular had never abandoned their belief that she was alive.

Inside her cramped living room, where she sat on an overstuffed green loveseat, Private Lynch's mother, Deadra, 40, said a motherly intuition she felt earlier on Tuesday had given her confidence her daughter would be found.

''I was up and down, but I just knew yesterday was going to be the day,'' Mrs. Lynch said. ''A mama knows.''