February 27, 2007 / 5:03 AM / 13 years ago

Injured anchor Woodruff back with book, TV special

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff doesn’t remember much about January 29, 2006, when a bomb ripped through his convoy on an Iraqi highway and nearly killed him.

Woodruff recalls meeting with members of the 4th Infantry Division, riding in an armored vehicle and standing up in the hatch moments before the blast.

“When it actually exploded, I don’t remember that,” Woodruff said Monday in an interview with a small group of reporters at ABC News headquarters in New York.

His next memory is seeing his body floating and then falling into the tank, spitting blood. He looked over to see cameraman Doug Vogt, also wounded in the blast, and asking him if they were both still alive. Then he fell into unconsciousness, and didn’t wake up for 36 days.

Woodruff’s story is told in an hourlong documentary airing at 10 p.m. Tuesday on ABC. It features interviews with his wife, brothers, colleagues and doctors. Viewers see a few minutes of footage from before the blast and handheld video shot by his brother at the hospital and afterward as Woodruff struggled to recognize common household objects and tried to grasp the right words. He and his wife have co-written a book about their experiences, which will be published Tuesday.

Certainly Woodruff has come a long way from the day of his injury, when a rock cut his neck and came within a millimeter of severing his carotid artery.

“Even to this moment, I still can’t understand why,” Woodruff said. “But it worked out, it worked out this way.”

He suffered severe wounds to one side of his face and a traumatic brain injury — a condition frightfully common among the Iraq War wounded. It’s been a long, slow recovery but one that defied expectations, as Woodruff himself makes clear in person and on the documentary. Most of the soldiers and Marines suffering from traumatic brain injuries don’t make the progress he did.

The documentary, “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports,” is as much a look at other soldiers and Marines suffering from traumatic brain injuries as it is about Woodruff’s recovery. He meets with the injured, hearing their stories and offering them hope. He comforts the wives and mothers who are caring for the injured with a medical system that doesn’t seem, Woodruff finds, to be set up to treat the injury outside of a few specialized centers.

That isn’t to say that Woodruff is completely healed. He still has trouble remembering words and names, even though he’s leagues ahead of where he was in the months after awakening from the coma. He struggled for words twice during Monday’s session, calling reporters’ attention to it once.

Woodruff and his wife, Lee, go on a book tour starting Tuesday, and he has pledged to continue following the story of soldiers and Marines suffering from the wounds of war. He also plans to covering other stories, both domestically and internationally, for ABC News as soon as he can.

Will he return to anchoring?

“It’s a possibility,” said Woodruff, who said he was happy just to be able to go back to reporting and never really aspired to be an anchor anyway. But, he added, “It was wonderful for the 27 days that I was officially.”

Just don’t look for him in Iraq. Urged by friends to stay out of Iraq and married to a woman who doesn’t want him to go either, Woodruff said he’d have to weigh the danger. His boss, ABC News president David Westin, made it clear in an interview Monday that he wasn’t going to send Woodruff there ever again.

“Absolutely not,” Westin said.

Westin said that the still-recovering Woodruff would be more vulnerable than others because of his injury.

“It would be the height of recklessness” for ABC News to send Woodruff knowing that, Westin said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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