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April 28, 2013

Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival offers a time to celebrate, a time to remember

NORMAN — The Second Annual Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival was a time to share food and cultural heritage with new friends in Oklahoma. It was also a time for remembering.

One Oklahoman remembered on Saturday was Anthony Shadid, a foreign correspondent who had won the Pulitzer Prize for International reporting twice. Shadid died in February while on assignment. In addition to traditional music and dance entertainment, the festival featured a lecture by award-winning journalist Mike Boettcher who worked with Shadid.

Boettcher described a bombing at a hotel full of American journalists in Iraq. The first bomb exploded and Boettcher said he remembered that there is always a second bomb — in this case the first bomb was to breach the walls and the second was to destroy the hotel, but the truck full of explosives got stuck in debris detonated outside the hotel.

Boettcher hit the ground as the walls shook again.

“The room was full of smoke and debris,” he said. “I was dazed and on the floor, semi-conscious.”

Later he would learn he had suffered a concussion and hearing loss, but at the time he got up off the floor and went back to reporting.

“We’ll probably be back here,” Shadid said to him, “because we can’t stay away.”

Boettcher said Shadid did not stay away. Not after he was shot. Not after he was abducted.

“He (Shadid) could write poetry on deadline,” Boettcher said. “And no, I didn’t give it up, and I am still doing it.”

The Second Annual Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival ran from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and included performances by singer Elite Khalil, Raks band with singer Eddie Adwi, dance performances, a bake sale and a raffle.

Proceeds from the festival will go to help build a youth center for Our Lady of Lebanon, the Maronite Catholic church which hosted the event. The Maronite Catholic Church is one of 22 autonomous churches in full communion with Rome. It is one of the oldest traditions of the Catholic church.

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