Bob Woodruff, 2011
On January 29, 2006, 27 days after he was tapped to succeed Peter Jennings as the co-anchor of ABC World News Tonight, Bob Woodruff was nearly killed by a roadside bomb explosion, which struck his vehicle while on assignment near Taji, Iraq. The blast knocked Woodruff unconscious as rocks and metal pierced his face, jaw, and neck. Woodruff's cameraman, Doug Vogt, and an Iraqi soldier were also hurt. "How I survived, we still don’t know to this day," he says. And when he survived, no one thought he would be able to work again—especially as a broadcast journalist. But Bob did return to the air, 13 months after getting injured, to tell his story in a documentary called To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports.
The journey back was not easy. Immediately after the attack, Woodruff was placed in a medically induced coma for 36 days so his brain could rest and heal. Upon waking up, he recalls, "I could not remember my family members' names. I remembered [my wife] Lee and two of my kids. I could not remember my twins' names. I did not even remember having twins." After that came multiple surgeries -- he estimates about nine. Woodruff’s physical skills came back relatively quickly, but it took intense cognitive rehabilitation to regain some of the skills he had lost.
Bob Woodruff also suffered from aphasia, the inability to find words. "I couldn’t come up with words, and I didn’t have a lot of synonyms," he says. "It was hugely frustrating." To this day, Woodruff still has occasional difficulty finding words.
The near-death experience has given Bob a new perspective. "I have realized how short of a time we all have on this earth," he says. "I don’t know what would have happened to me without my friends and family." Woodruff credits much of his recovery to the love and support of his family and friends, which he and his wife wrote about in their book In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing.
Today, Woodruff is an advocate for soldiers who have sustained traumatic brain injuries—the signature injury of the Iraq war. He started the Bob Woodruff Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission of providing resources and support for injured service members, veterans, and their families.