Remembering Slain Journalist James Foley

Beheaded journalist entered conflict zones to "understand the world."

August 20, 2014, 12:16 PM

— -- James Foley was passionate about reporting from conflict zones and finding stories that may have otherwise gone untold.

The missing U.S. journalist, who was apparently beheaded in Syria, tweeted about other journalists who were held captive, while continuing to bring the realities of war-torn regions to the world.

"It's part of the problem with these conflicts," Foley said during a forum at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2011. "We're not close enough to it and if reporters, if we don't try to get really close to what these guys ...we don't understand the world, essentially."

Video Appears to Show Beheading of Journalist James Foley

The International Effort to Free James Foley

Foley began his career as a teacher, working to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth. With an innate curiosity about the world, he made a career shift in 2007 when he enrolled in a graduate program at Medill in Evanston, Illinois.

Foley recalled how he believed conflict reporters had to work for major daily newspapers, but a reporter from the Washington Post told him it was possible to freelance abroad.

"I was pretty much hooked," Foley said.

After graduating, Foley went to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria as a freelance journalist. As his Twitter bio put it, his travels left him with "a lot of questions, no answers."

Foley worked close to the frontlines, shooting video and filing articles for a variety of publications. In one video, he showed the burning, ransacked town of Tawergha, Libya, that more than 30,000 people had once called home.

Another video captured the carnage from the Libyan town of Sirte.

Held captive in Libya for 44 days in 2011, Foley, 40, said he relied on prayer during the experience. Two weeks after his release, he spoke to Medill students June 2 about his experience as a conflict reporter.

"When you see something really violent it does a strange thing to you. It doesn't always repel you. Sometimes, as you know, it draws you closer," he said. "Feeling like you've survived something, you know, it's a strange sort of force that you are drawn back to. I think that is the absolute reality."

While Foley saw violence and bloodshed, he also took time to appreciate moments with civilians caught in a conflict zone. He shared a video of a Syrian couple exchanging vows in Aleppo as bombs dropped in the distance.

As part of a group of concerned journalists, Foley also helped raise money for an ambulance in Aleppo.

He actively tweeted until his kidnapping in November 2012, sharing his colleagues’ stories and reminding his followers of Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who was kidnapped in August 2012 and still remains missing.

A video posted online Tuesday showed Foley apparently being beheaded by a militant, which U.S. officials today described as “authentic.”

A statement posted on the Free James Foley Facebook page and attributed to Foley’s mother, Diane, said his family has “never been prouder of our son Jim.”

“He gave his life trying to expose the world to suffering of the Syrian people,” the note says. “We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents... We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events