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Queens Chronicle

Injured United Nations Worker Wants To Get Back To Work

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Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003 12:00 am

The son of a United Nations worker from Woodhaven who was injured in the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad said his mother is eager to get back to doing humanitarian work.

Vladimir Manuel said his mother, Marilyn Manuel, has been in and out of the hospital since she got home last Thursday, but is already talking about taking up a new job in the U.N.’s midtown headquarters.

Manuel needs plastic surgery and cornea surgery for injuries to her face and eyes. She underwent some surgery before leaving the Middle East. “We’re hoping she gets all these things checked out, but she can’t wait to go back to work,” the son said.

She had been scheduled to return to work in the Manhattan headquarters at the time of the bombing. The blast killed 23, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N.’s chief envoy to Iraq.

Manuel was standing near Vieira de Mello at the time of the blast and did not know what was happening. “I didn’t know it was a bomb at the time. I thought I was being electrocuted. I didn’t hear anything and just saw this white light and had this horrible feeling,” she told reporters.

She eventually found a co-worker and was taken to a Baghdad hospital, but the U.N. did not know she survived the bombing. U.N. personnel soon went to Manuel’s home on 92nd Street on August 19th to inform them that she had died.

The family had a memorial service for Manuel at the house, and her daughter, Vanessa Manuel-Mazzullo, flew back from Hawaii to mourn with her husband of two weeks. She was devastated.

“It was a 10-hour flight of just crying. I’d go to sleep and then wake up and I would cry again,” she said.

In the early morning hours of August 21st, the phone rang in Manuel’s home and her youngest son, Eric, answered it. “Rick, it’s mom,” Manuel said.

The next day, the happy family congregated on the front steps of the house, as news organizations from across the world descended on the family to report the story.

The family did not tell Manuel they thought she died in the attacks until she returned home. Her husband Benjamin flew to Jordan to accompany her back.

Manuel had worked in U.N. hot spots for years before being personally invited to Baghdad by Vieira de Mello. Her tours have included Somalia, Liberia and East Timor.

Her family was used to her being away, and Manuel understood the risks of working in danger zones. “She believes in her cause. She knew she wanted her children to go to college. Even though it was hard on us growing up, she knew career-wise and financial-wise, she had to do it,” Manuel-Mazzullo said.

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