One September morning whilst living in Beijing, I received a message from a Swedish girl on couchsurfing looking for somewhere to stay that evening for a few days. Her enthusiasm to meet new people, discover the bewildering city, and the promise to invite me for dinner at her yet non-existent flat made me say yes.
Late that afternoon, there was a knock on the door of my flat and I met Kim for the first time. Opening the door let a bundle of joy, energy and eagerness into the room. Kim and I sat on the balcony on the 13th floor in a huge 1960s tower block looking south over Beijing at what was both our new home. Whilst drinking Qingdao and eating sunflower seeds, we barely paused for breath getting to know each other. By the time my flatmate arrived home an hour later you’d have thought we’d have been friends for years, having bypassed most pleasantries for in depth discussions on: the power of karaoke to unite people; Shakira's talent to height ratio; and trying new foods. Her warmth, generosity and openness were clear from that first time we met.
One of my clearest memories of Kim was when has a picnic in the park to celebrate our friend’s birthday on an oppressively humid day, having splashed out on imported cheese and bought large quantities of red wine. After a while, the hazy sky turned a deep yellow before a huge dark cloud rolled over. The heavens opened and rather than save the food or look for shelter, Kim jumped up and started dancing in the torrential rain. She got us all to join in through the look of sheer joy on her face at the absurdness of the situation.
Every time Kim would come back from one of her trips to stay on someone’s sofa, she would regale us with the most incredible stories of the adventures she’d had. These were told with no ego or to impress, but a desire to share the narratives of the people that she’d met. They always came across in a way like Kim couldn’t quite understand why everyone wasn’t doing these things, as running away from Sri Lankan police or getting stuck up a mountain in South West China were perfectly normal activities. It was this outgoing, judgemental and curious attitude that made her a wonderful friend and an absolute powerhouse of a journalist.
I have no idea how to begin to say goodbye to Kim. I said goodbye to her so many times in NY, either because she had become fed up with the various challenges living in NY throws at you, or because she was embarking on another adventure, or both. She always came back with a ton of great stories and a mischievous glint in her eye and it was as if she had never left.
I have so many great memories of Kim, from dancing to Cher at a roof top party in Brooklyn, to numerous Sunday brunches discussing our love lives, to drinking Pastis on another roof (hers) trying to watch fireworks in the rain. One 4th of July, Kim, our friend Niall and I decided to go to the beach at Fort Tilden. It took us an eternity to get there and when we arrived it was freezing and completely deserted except from a miserable looking solitary figure huddled under a sunshade. Kim was fascinated by this man; what was he doing here? What was his story? Why did he look so sad? We concocted some elaborate theories and after a while he picked up his sun shade and shuffled off, forever a mystery. We went back to eating chips and exchanging stories and laughs. She had a way of transforming a failed experiment into a magical adventure.
She had a honest curiosity that made her an excellent journalist as well as a great friend. Her ability to inject even the most serious subject with her unique wit was incredible. She was incredibly brave and lived life to the full and I miss her very much.
I am so disheartened and horrified to learn of Kim's passing. I met Kim in May 2013 when we both received a prize from the Foreign Press Association in New York. She won first prize, and I won third prize. The attached is a photo of us holding our awards. I had the privilege of dining in her company at the awards dinner and hearing her acceptance speech. I only knew Kim for one evening and yet I remember vividly how kind, lively and attentive she was to everyone around her. She had not a hint of arrogance about her and was interested in sharing in the celebration of young foreigners studying journalism in the United States. (See http://www.foreignpressassociation.org/scholarship/fpa-scholarship-fund-winners-2013/#more-1721) What I will take away from this horrific news is that we all need to be more like Kim was: have a predisposition of generous curiosity towards everyone around us, even those we only share one meal with, as I did with Kim. For we truly never know what will become of them the next day or four years down the line. I am proud to have known Kim and I am devastated to learn she is no longer with us.
I am totally unable to process this news right now. I am keeping Kim's family and friends in my prayers. I am so incredibly sorry that this has happened.
-Joanna Nurmis (née Margueritte-Giecewicz)
Kim would regularly organize "leaving drinks" for herself in New York. Sometimes, these were before short reporting trips and other times they marked more permanent moves like China. We never took these too seriously; she inevitably returned every three months or so and hosted another "going-away" party, fuelled by whatever potent and obscure liquor she had purchased on her travels.
Kim and I would visit the Russian and Turkish baths together in the East Village, she was fascinated by the motley clientele it attracted. We had one particularly memorable afternoon there last summer where we talked and sweated for hours and finished the evening off over the spiciest Sri Lankan food. She continually referred to it as our "magical date" in the months that followed. Shortly thereafter, she was off to Sri Lanka herself and sending me photos of even better curries.
A story that Kim told over a New York dinner in early 2017 sticks in my mind. Having finished her last reporting stint in Sri Lanka, she had gone to a meditative retreat to unwind for a few days, a purely personal visit. However, upon discovering she was a journalist, the retreat organizers had insisted she leave immediately and she was unceremoniously put on the next bus. She recounted briefly feeling frustration about her failed attempts to find zen, which quickly gave way to laughter about the ridiculousness of the whole situation. She described the eventual contentment she felt on the long bus journey, listening to her feminist podcasts and feeling like she didn't need anything else to be happy. That's how I will remember her; fully embracing both the difficulties and joys of pursuing her dreams.
With love from Brooklyn,
For a period of time at JSchool, Chris loved to hack into our Facebook accounts and prank us. One Saturday, Kim was working from Stabile and realized Chris' Facebook session had been left open on the computer she was on. She immediately called me on the phone and told me to come to school at once, that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that we needed to jump on the occasion immediately. I arrived to find her eagerly standing by the computer, ready to jump into action. We spent a good hour updating info on Chris' account and finding the best things to post on there. His grandma got a bit mad at some of our jokes (yes, she is on Facebook) but it was definitely worth it and remains as one of my favorite memories from that year.
Right before Hurricane Sandy hit, while most of us were taking coverage, Kim was taking pictures of deserted Time Square. She then spent the evening reporting from my couch while we drank our share of wine and ate French cheese. In the following weeks we reported from Hoboken, Coney Island, and Staten Island together. Kim was full of energy and inexhaustible. But what impressed me most was her reporting skills. People who had just lost everything in the hurricane opened up to us because of her warmth and genuine empathy and curiosity.
Like many of us, I knew Kim as a journalist and colleague — but above that, I knew her as my friend. She has always been a person I care for and cherish, and I continue to do that. I'm not sure if this is the kind of tribute you are looking for for the page, but I felt I would share these stories anyways because they are good stories. Feel free to post them or not post them. I don't mind.
I got the sense in J School that Kim was destined to cover all that is weird and wonderful in our world — she became fascinated with the Coney Island side show performers, and would spend days and days with them, even trying to learn some of their tricks. She once let one of them throw knives at her, and confessed that she had a small crush on the man with elastic skin. They were just the start.
Kim and I talked about subcultures a lot. I love subcultures, but just for my own interest. When I was younger, I was a goth and a steam punk and I was into body modification, so Kim was fascinated to learn all about it. I love talking about it, so we made a good match. More recently, we talked about even more unusual and niche subcultures — people who install microchips into themselves, for example, so that they can use their own hand as the card key to a building, or some other piece of machinery, and see themselves as cyborgs. The last time she was in New York, around July 4th this year, we were walking in Crown Heights and taking pictures of the neon signs in beauty parlors' windows (when I asked her why she just said, "Because I fucking love neon! And these are amazing!"). At one point she asked me what I thought my "fursona" would be — the persona I would take on if I were a furry. I told her I hadn't thought about it, and she was shocked. I asked what her fursona was, and she said "When I was with the designer, she asked me and I just knew immediately, I don't know why! I am a fox!" Of course she was.
Some of these conversations turned into stories — interviews with vampires and exposés of furry identity and days with desnudas — they are all stories I wish I had written, but I am so proud that Kim wrote them. She did them justice in a way most writers would not. She looked in from the margins and brought the weird and the wonderful into the light — never to mock or to sensationalize, but to tell the story of her subjects with grace and dignity. Some of our conversations did not turn into stories, but maybe they would have become stories one day. Kim never let a good idea go.
My boyfriend Ben brought up a funny story about Kim this week. Once, we met for a drink at a bar near where I lived in Bushwick after she had come back from a reporting trip to Uganda. Ben was with me — it was the second time he was meeting Kim I think. He worked for The New York Post at the time as a reporter, and was doing this ridiculous story about homeless people peeing on people's front doors in posh neighborhoods in the city. Kim started telling us about her trip, about Idi Amin's torture chambers, the strangeness of being a tourist in such a place and the stories she was planning. She also told us about becoming an extra in a shoot-em-up film, and all the other amazing things she did there with Mansi and then she just abruptly stopped and turned to Ben, and she said, "So Claire tells me you are following men who pee in the streets here?" I cracked up laughing; Ben looked so surprised. She was totally sincere in her curiosity about it, but he couldn't believe that after her amazing story she would want to talk to him about his story with just as much enthusiasm. But that was just how she was — she really did want to know. Although this was also demonstrative of her healthy sense of humor.
Kim went above and beyond with every story she decided she was going to pursue. She traveled the world, lived with her subjects and immersed herself in their lives, gaining their trust through her charm, lack of judgement and sheer enthusiasm to learn. Several months ago, she was in Barcelona for a time reporting on feminist porn makers, and ended up being present on set for a few of their shoots as an observer. She was staying in a vegan squat in the city. Once, she said she felt uncomfortable and under pressure on a shoot she was observing, but the woman she was staying with had apologized profusely, telling her it was a rare occasion and wouldn't happen again. I was worried for her then. But Kim being Kim, that wasn't going to put her off. A few days later, I received a frantic message from her asking for help and advice. In my head I just thought "Oh god, here we go." I thought something terrible had happened on one of the shoots she had gone to, or something had gone wrong in the squat she was staying at. In fact, she was having a moral crisis: She had left part of a cake in their vegan-only fridge, thinking that because it was hers, no one would eat it. But in fact, her new housemates had taken it as a gift to them and had eaten it, even leaving a note to say how delicious it was. One had mentioned wanting a recipe. She was mortified — the cake was filled with eggs, cream and butter. No wonder it tasted so good. Not very vegan at all. She was torn over whether to tell them they had eaten all of these animal products or to pretend it was indeed vegan cake to spare them the anxiety and her from their ire. I told her it was best to just nod and smile and that people's memories for cake are usually short and so she could hope that it wouldn't come up again for the rest of her time staying there. She moved out soon afterwards. I don't know if she ever told them.
I have so many stories about Kim — the Christmas she nearly burned her kitchen down and our friend Richard had to go to the emergency room, the dinner she forgot to tell my lactose intolerant roommate about all the butter in the mashed potatoes, the day we went to the pickle festival, the time we went to a terrible party with weird anti-semitic art on the walls (we got into an argument with the host, whom we didn't know, about it and left pretty quickly), the night we went exploring lofts in Bushwick, the party we met the man with the amethyst belt who hosted gong listening parties, the innumerate nights dancing to Robyn... Kim loved life, and she lived it as best as she could at all times, whether they be bad or good. She never shied away from anything, she was always open-hearted and ready to draw you close to her in a hug.
Our time together over the last year or two had become a series of comings and goings as she sought to travel the world and establish herself in Beijing. Whenever she was in town, it was always a celebration. When she was in NYC in July of this year, I felt like she was finally hitting her stride. She was prepared to leave New York, finally, and had found a flat in Beijing for her and her partner. She was particularly happy to have found a place where the toilet was not in fact in the kitchen, and which had a door separating the two (not a given, apparently). We were wondering how we had become so adult and what on earth could be next. She convinced me to come to Beijing just so I could go with her to a terrible Chinese hardcore metal show. Apparently it's a big underground scene there, but all the bands are really bad, she said. She told me about the latest editor she'd had a bad experience with, and I suggested some science magazines with a culture section she might pitch to for a story she was thinking of doing. We listened to Robyn and parted ways only when she had to go — she was on deadline, of course. Everything seemed to be falling into place for her. She'd be back, she assured me.
Kim is one of the most charming, loving, brave and interesting people I have ever met. She is one of those few friends with whom the conversation never stops flowing. Whenever she left to go back to Beijing or on another trip, I missed her greatly, but felt assured I would always see her again. I still feel like that.
Thanks for reading,
To all who loved Kim, as we did, we offer our most sincere condolences on the loss of this beautiful, amazing, talented woman. Kim was a light in this world and an inspiration to everyone who had the good fortune to know her.
Kim was a gentle and wise soul who was a vital part of our Thanks To Scandinavia family. We first met Kim in 2013 when she was awarded a scholarship from us, but over the past four years, Kim has become so much more than just one of our former scholars. She became our valued and trusted friend. She was a regular guest at our Thanks To Scandinavia gatherings and we always looked forward to hearing about her non-stop globetrotting, traveling anywhere - and everywhere - from North Korea to Cuba, and all parts in between. She brought joy and inspiration to everyone she met. We will miss her smile, her sunny outlook, and her extraordinary fearlessness.
Kim’s spirit will remain within everybody she touched, including the entire Thanks To Scandinavia family.
Laurie Sprayregen and Kelly Ramot, Thanks To Scandinavia
[WARNING: Expletives abound...kinda]
I first met Kim in 2013 at a Christmas party in Carroll Gardens. The host, like Kim, went to J-School with my friend Claire. She was the one holding the attention of a small circle of people, talking passionately—with accompanying emphatic hand gestures, a glass of wine balancing precariously in one hand—explaining how a major publication (who shall remain nameless) tried to stiff her on what I'd later find to be one of many pieces she'd written only after risking mortal peril, and with next to no support, financial or otherwise. I slowly inched in and merged with the back of the group, drawn in like an awkward moth to a flame. After explaining the lengths she went to get the story, even I—a journalism outsider—found their offering a pittance, as well as a personal offense. "I was like, 'Go fuck yourself!'" she said. Yea, I thought. Fuck 'em. She was the baddest bitch in the room.
Over the years, we would see each other at Claire's parties, or by happenstance at random locations (a RISC talk at the Brooklyn Brewery, in the massive queue for the port-a-potty on the National Mall at the Women's March, in a basement bar in SoHo), and it would always be the same: even if she was on the opposite side of the room, on the other side of an impenetrable tangle of people, I would find my way to her. Like so many others have remarked, one of the most striking things I found about Kim was her light, and the warmth of it. It was the kind of light that kept a smile on your face throughout the entire conversation. And our exchanges of Hey Babe's always felt like they were between the oldest and most intimate of friends, even though I never had the privilege to know her as well as so many others have. Though an insanely talented journalist, whose passion was inescapable, I just remember Kim as a goofy, eccentric adventurer, always off doing things that I could only dare to dream of, coming home to New York and regaling us with weird tales told with equal parts humor, enthusiasm and compassion. Her energy was boundless; I would see her out drinking one night and then see a photo of her running a marathon the next morning, stamina I almost found offensive, as I haven't exercised in maybe (definitely) a solid two years...
I think the story I have of Kim that I'm most endeared to is the one where we ran into each other at the Women's March in D.C. There were millions of people there - what were the odds? We were both in adjacent queues for one of those horrible port-a-potties that, despite event organizers' best efforts, I couldn't escape knowing, had by that point been used by thousands of people. Our eyes met. She was wearing a ridiculous Davy Crockett-style fur hat with a tail, looking absolutely larger than life. I had a friend hold my place as I scurried over to her queue.
"What the fuck are you doing here?!"
"I'm here marching with a bunch of Chinese feminists!"
"Of course you are!"
"But I seem to have lost them..."
"Of course you did! Well, aren't you going to go look for them?"
"Well, no...not yet. I have to pee."
"I love you."
A few days later, I saw her byline in Foreign Policy. When China's Feminists Came to Washington.
Oh shit, I thought. I guess she found them! And I screenshot the page like a proud stage mom.
I'll never forget her.
I remember hearing stories about Kim and all her reporting adventures before actually meeting her in person. My first impressions proved lasting: Kim truly was as vibrant as she came across. I will always remember her sharp, loving energy. I will always admire her courage, conviction, and curiosity. She was a friend and fellow female journalist, the work she leaves us with is testament to her empathy, her charm, and her joy for the world she set out to discover, little by little, layer by layer, with every grant, every trip, every article. In these dark moments following shocking news of her death, I keep returning to that first meeting, to those first and lasting impressions, and find comfort in Kim's larger-than-life spirit.
Dear Ingrid, you and Joachim raised an incredible human being. We’re so lucky to experience Kim’s wit, talent and joyous love for life. Reading these notes make my heart full and since the news broke, fill it with deep sorrow. Thank you for sharing Kim with us and with the world. I’ll never forget her first project for our Columbia photojournalism class. She made those quirky Chinese wedding portraits in Central Park come to life. Her personality was evident in the photos as well as her deep care for the story’s (and any story’s) historical, political and cultural layers. She taught me how to question harder in the stories I had the opportunity to tell with her: loss of identity from ancestral land, a global supply chain in the trade of salvaged copper, nuclear waste, a Marshallese diaspora in Arkansas. These moments, stories and so much more with Kim have been running through my mind. In her work and life, she embodies dignity and grace. Here for you and always just a phone call away. Sending you, Joachim, Tom, the rest of your family and our friends here so much love.
-Coleen Jose, Columbia Journalism School classmate and fellow reporter
I didn’t know Kim as well as some of you and haven’t been sure what to contribute here. But I did have two classes with her at Columbia and shared her interest in China, which was enough to give me a sense of the traits that so many of you have mentioned: her radiance, her originality, her ability to charm cops. The last time I spoke with her was over the phone 2 years ago. She had previously lived in Hong Kong, and I was looking for advice about the job market there. She was in New York that morning, applying for one grant while finishing up the reporting for another (as I recall), and told me that she was also trying to get to mainland China now. Before we hung up, she said something to the extent of, “Well, see you in China!” I ended up taking a new job at a newspaper in Maine, but about 6 months later, I got a Facebook message from Kim: “Hi! Did you ever make it to China? (As it happens, I just moved to Beijing!)” I told her what I was up to and that I hadn’t made it to China. She was excited but nervous about the leap she’d taken and the Mandarin classes she was going to soon start, and also enthusiastic about the work I was doing, and again, she told me to look her up next time I was in China. For the last week, those are the things I’ve been remembering about Kim: her hustle, her ease in hopping from country to country, her kindness and modesty that far outweighs what you’d expect from someone of that talent. It has been stunning, but I’ve really appreciated everything you’ve shared in this group. Thanks, and my best to all of you in this difficult time.
- Charlie Eichacker, Columbia Journalism School classmate
First, I want to express my deepest condolences to the whole Wall family and her friends!
I never met and I didn’t know Kim, but ever since I heard of her being missing, she has been in my heart. Hoping and praying everything would turn out well. I’ve dreamt about her and talked to her in my sleep. What a strange feeling, when you don’t know someone, but you care so much for someone as if you did.
Reading everyone’s post here is so beautiful <3 She reminds me of both myself, and my children – being a bit crazy, but in a good and fun way, loving life, living life and daring doing things that your heart tells you to. It’s beautiful to read about her loving personality and her talent! It outgrows the image of the tabloids. What an amazing young woman <3
May you find peace and strength within each other and through her memories!
Lots of love <3
Camilla Gisslow, Malmö, Sweden
I spent some time reflecting about Kim, looking back through all our correspondence, etc. Honestly, she is just such a positive, encouraging person; I remember one occasion she was so earnestly excited when I offered to help edit and give feedback on a video she was making about Haiti. It wasn't the sort of shallow appreciation that is all that so many of us make time for these days. It was earnest, and even if she didn't agree with all my feedback, she made me feel as though I had done something special, even though i hadn't. She'd reach out whenever I'd publish a big article, saying things like "Jacob! I just wanted to say INCREDIBLE STORY (I'm heartbroken)." She always made time to meet for a coffee just to catch up whenever I passed through new york--even if our schedules were tight and it wasn't easy.
I'm so glad we all get to share with you such lovely stories about your amazing daughter. Kim is one of the sweetest, funniest, kindest girls I know. I love that she would always call me 'baby,' gives the warmest hugs (seriously the best) and looks so effortlessly cool with her tins of snus and amazing sweaters I told her once that I had never tried chinese soup dumplings and as a connoisseur she rectified that instantly taking me downtown and showing me how to eat them properly without looking like a stupid westerner. She also would give the best advice on men, if only I had learnt to take it! I admire her greatly as a phenomenal journalist but more importantly as an all round wonderful girl. I hope you can take some solace in knowing how much we all love her. She's an absolute one off.
-Charlotte Stafford, Columbia Journalism School classmate
We met up on average about once a year after Columbia - although I missed her last time I was in NYC because she was on a reporting trip. Back to Sri Lanka, I think.
Anyway. Last time we talked Kim was thinking about coming to Beirut because she'd heard it's a fun city (it is!) and she was hatching a story idea (of course).
Kim Wall is a phenomenal human being. I love her very much. My thoughts are with you and all of the other wonderful people in this group 💜
- Bethan Mckernan, Classmate, Columbia Journalism School
The breadth of Kim’s work truly astonishes me. What a crushing loss for this community and also for the entire industry. We complain so often of the lack of depth and creativity in journalism – Kim was certainly neither. Like others, I did not know Kim very well, but I remember most of our conversations. She reached out to me once to ask about Columbia’s international affairs program, and I thought to myself, my god, you’ve already earned every degree from the finest schools - what more could you possibly learn from being around us? I was out of town at the time and we didn’t follow up on that conversation. Then one day, at the start of a new term at SIPA, there she was in macroeconomics, learning about migration’s affect on economies. To see how much she has accomplished already and still have the drive to keep learning at the highest levels – I’m in awe of that dedication, and the variety of her work reveals so much energy and excitement for life. Even though my personal connection to Kim wasn’t strong, the sense of collective loss here is really touching. So much love to all of you.
-Jefferson Mok, Columbia Journalism School classmate
I din't know her personally but her fate tarts every imagination.
What a sad brutal death of a talented beautiful girl.
-Karine Maes, a nurse from Belgium.
A couple silly photos of Kim, myself, and two other reporters in Kampala in February 2016. (We were visiting the city's main mosque, built by Gaddafi). After ten days with Kim on that trip, I had two main impressions -- one, that she was a reporter capable of immediately disarming almost anyone, from government officials to people in weird fringe subcultures. Her curiosity and kindness were just too genuine to ignore. And two, that she was side splittingly funny. Like make you cry / feel the ab muscles you didn't know you had funny.
Ryan Lenora Brown
Dear family and friends of Kim Wall,
My heart is reaching out for you in your loss of Kim Wall. Such a meaningless and cruel act.
Someone else decided to just rip her out of your lives.
I have a daughter. She is also someone’s sister, someone’s girlfriend, and a friend of many -
what happened to Kim Wall makes my heart ache so much and I just cannot imagine what you
are going through right now.
Even the harshest penalty in the law book will not be hard enough - there is no compensation for
this. Thank you for letting me share this, I think about you.
Susanne G Langenskiöld, Stockholm
I remember her big bright eyes, and her infectious laugh. And how she was always working on a unique story in a part of New York that I had never heard of, or knew existed. If there was a place to explore, or report on, she'd find it.
She had such a sweet spirit, and was genuinely kind. Her stories were one of a kind, and so was she.
Rachael Johnson, Columbia Journalism School.
I have never been so deeply affected by anything, as I am by the loss of Kim Wall. I didn't know her personally, and I never met her, but I am still completely devastated. I have been thinking about Kim constantly ever since she was declared missing. First I was hoping, of course, that she would turn up alive and well. But now I know that this will never happen...
I have been crying... I have been talking to her, hoping that somehow she would hear me, and know that I am thinking about her, and even though I never met her, I still miss her...
Kim, you will never die. You cannot die, because you will live on forever in our minds and in our thoughts... Your beautiful soul and your wonderful spirit will live on forever. And someday, in some kind of higher existence, I hope that I will meet you and get to know you...
Kim, I will never forget you! See you around, and take care! <3
Per Jonsson, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
Like all of her friends and colleagues around the world, I was shocked and saddened to learn last week of Kim Wall's disappearance. Now we know she won't be coming back. The world is a worse place for it, and I want to add my voice to those offering public remembrances.
Kim and I met on a group reporting trip to the Paris climate summit in December 2015. The low-quality selfie here is from our first night in the city, when we all went to a holiday festival on the Champs-Élysée and got drunk on mulled wine. The next morning we went hungover to a meeting with Jane Goodall. I think I gravitated to Kim because we shared a kind of eye-rolling sense of humor about the ridiculous pageantry of the summit, the palaces and VIPs and diplo-jargon that hogged the spotlight from the refugees, farmers, and other direct victims of climate change who were forced to the side stages. I also recognized her as a fellow New York hipster type, the same age as me, who knew how to dress and wouldn't stand out like a tourist when we escaped the talks to explore Paris at happy hour. I remember a maroon skirt and a giant green cape/sweater thing that she wore everywhere, and her famous top-knot, and her white tennis shoes that were listed in the first missing-person description I saw from the police, even before her name had been released. I remember that those shoes always stood out to me for some reason, and now it seems like a kind of cosmic foresight that I would take note of her shoes two year ago, as if I knew I would need that memory now as proof that the newspaper was talking about the same Kim I knew.
Our sponsored trip ended before the conference itself did, and after we got booted from our fancy hotel in the 1er Arrondissement, Kim and I decided to share an Airbnb for the rest of the week. It was a little courtyard apartment on the Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, behind a blue door, and she took the futon in the living room and let me have the bed. Every morning we woke up before dawn, boarded the metro at Couronnes, rode to the Gare du Nord, grabbed an espresso and croissant en route, and caught the train to Le Bourget airport where the talks were happening. She didn't have a working phone, and we had only one key, so we had to plan in advance on where to meet in the evening for the commute home.
I had credentials for the part of the conference where the talks were actually happening, and she didn't, so we would part ways in the morning, and while I went to work in the press gallery with hundreds of people writing versions of the same story, she went off to look for leads among the unwashed, unaccredited masses of activists and vulnerable people who came to Paris because their lives, not their careers, depended on it. I admired her tenacity and creativity and patience in tackling the numerous hurdles and headaches of freelance journalism. And I respected her detachment from the boring inside-baseball minutiae that I and most other reporters were obsessing over. She didn't care about talking to anyone in a suit. She wanted to meet the people who had the most to lose. As a journalist it's very easy to fall into a trap of access, of trading proximity to real people for proximity to power, and I think Kim was never duped into it. She knew who she really worked for, even when she didn't know which publication would buy her story. That's a standard we should all try harder to live up to.
In the evening we had dinner at La Verre Volé, and drank the best bottle of red wine I've ever had, and argued about whether America's fucked-up politics invalidate the country as a whole (Kim thought they did; I argued in favor of, you know, the national parks and jazz and stuff). Then we went dancing at a crazy West African club she knew about. Then we parted ways.
The next time I saw her it was at a going-away party in New York; she was on her way to China, I think, and I was again impressed by her ability to push through the fear and insecurity all freelancers experience and go out into the strange foreign world looking for stories to tell. She leaves behind a record of excellent reporting and a strong reputation among her peers as testaments to her success.
But of course, there are other stories she could and would have told. We grieve for the loss of Kim, but we also grieve for the loss of her future work. For plights unheard-of, politicians unpressured, visions of the world undispatched. Other people have observed how Kim's death underscores the routine danger journalists, especially women, face, even in what you would assume to be friendly terrain. But Kim was undaunted, and while we wait for closure and justice in her case, and throughout our lives, we owe it to her to remain so ourselves.
Amongst the many journalists, writers, film makers I had worked and travelled with, Kim Wall was amongst the more daring and sensitive. And we also had some fun, even though our travels were during the dangerous and difficult days of Rajapakse regime. And people we met liked her.
After all the travels and work, the only picture I could find of her was in a pub in Colombo. But photos she took in the Vanni under intense military surveillance were featured by Al Jazeera.
She was one of the first journalists to look at tourism and reconciliation in Sri Lanka 's former war zone. Here is another of her posts from that eventful trip.
It's perhaps an irony that she was killed on the job in Denmark - close to her home and a country not so famous for killing of journalists. After having travelled far and wide and survived countries notorious for killing journalists, like Sri Lanka.
Sad that I couldn't spend much time with her in her last visit. But hope Mansi will be able to publish some of their work with women in Sri Lanka.
May you rest in peace. And may your family find some peace through the wonderful work you had done.
-Ruki, Sri Lanka
I spent "orphan's Christmas" with Kim at her loft in South Williamsburg on Christmas of 2014.
Christmas Eve was pouring rain. Kim made glögg, Swedish meatballs and gingerbread cookies. She decided that the theme of the Christmas tree would be "crushed dreams and broken promises" so we made lovely paper decorations out of rejection letters. A consensus was reached that it was the most beautiful tree in Williamsburg and we drank a lot more glögg and danced to Robyn around the tree.
The following morning after watching Die Hard we walked off our hangovers with a brisk walk over the bridge and then back to Kim's to roast a duck.
Disaster ensued when the duck fat caught on fire. The oven was in flames and burning fat spilled all over the lovely hardwood floors. With the fire extinguished, the duck fat mopped up and head chef Richard off to the hospital to be treated for burns we finally sat down to dinner.
Ding dong, a Christmas crasher with designs on Kim shows up at the door looking to be fed (and more). This guy had to go. He was spoiling our perfect friend's Christmas between Kim, Niall, Richard's empty placemat, 2 orphan dogs and me. There was only one solution. A quick knowing glance was exchanged between Niall and Kim and in a flash we are up dancing on the furniture with Robyn blasting at full volume. The Christmas crasher bade us a Happy New Year and made for the door.
On Christmas night Kim and I shared her bed and I said goodbye to her at 4am when she got up to go to Arkansas to meet Marshalese immigrants working in chicken factories.
I felt lonely after Kim left for Arkansas. It was a loneliness that stemmed from how much fun we'd had over Christmas. The loneliness I feel today is a bottomless chasm left by her loss. I try to remind myself that this heartbreak will serve as a forever reminder of all of the fun, the laughter, the crude jokes, the karaoke and the hugs Kim and I shared throughout our New York years.
- Sorcha Murphy
First, I want to convey my deepest condolences to the whole Wall family!
A former colleague and colleague, together with his wife and son, has been forced to pay the highest price you can imagine. Their daughter, during the performance of his duties as a journalist, has set the stage for a drunkenness! A story has been rolled up, as for each day that went, appeared as more and more strange. Kim was used to dealing with things that many others never even come close to.
She listened a lot to the little man and would certainly give each person a voice. A voice that could be disclosure, but also credible and reality based.
It's getting quieter now, much quieter!
The whole world needs these journalists who do not fear the reality that man creates.
That Kim would be bad, just outside Copenhagen, feels simply unreal. Not many miles from her growing city.
I'm suffering from her family, relatives and friends. Being forced to realize that one's child is no longer is nothing that any parent wants or should have to experience.
I met Kim the first time, when she was around 2 - 2.5 years old and already she impressed. That's why I remember that meeting today. It was at the Evening Post's editorial office when it was on Krusegatan. I was looking for some color pencils, because Kim would draw. I found a three-four pieces in different colors. When I gave her these, she looked at me wondering if there were no colors, because here you made a newspaper!
I was watching the search for Kim last week, around Barsebäck and Vikhög. I had a very strange feeling all the time, when I walked along the beach! A feeling I could not put my finger on, but it was awkward.
I heard the chairman of the "Report without borders" this morning about the information provided by the Danish police today. In addition to condemning the event itself, he addressed the vulnerable situation many journalists have today. One will do everything, listen, write, film and record. This is an exposed situation for very many. Then many people want to work and enjoy themselves.
I often work for myself too, but I have never been afraid of what I remember.
Now I hope that everything will be resolved, that the preliminary investigation and the subsequent trial will continue. This is because Kim's parents, brother and relatives will try to move on.
The memory of Kim Wall will always be left.
Rest in Peace Best KIM!
Words cannot describe how deeply sorry we are for your devastating loss. Kim was such an inspiring, unique, talented, positive, beautiful person in all possible ways. We had the pleasure of getting to know Kim when we were all studying at LSE in London, and later on when we all lived in New Delhi, where the photos we sent are from. We distinctly remember her sense of community - making an alien, different, distant place her own - belonging, understanding its issues but always being positive. She introduced us to some hidden gems in Delhi of which even the locals weren't aware. Kim was a remarkable and brave woman, a talented journalist who will be missed by so many people all over the world. She was as sharp as she was fun and we are remembering her as the brilliant, funny, quirky and real person that she always will be. Our deepest condolences to you – Kim is in our thoughts and the mark she left on the world will never be forgotten.
-Sini Rämö (Finland) and Sriya Coomer (India)
"Kim left a lasting impression of zest and gentle inquisitiveness — qualities on ample display among good young journalists, but particularly vital and palpable in her."
-David Wertime, Journalists like Kim Wall deserve more support, PRI Daily
"After traveling and reporting in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, it was in her native Scandinavia, a supposed bastion of gender parity, in which Kim has disappeared. It’s a chilling reminder that women’s safety can’t be shrugged off as a problem specific to developing countries, as if the west is immune to misogyny."
-Sruthi Gottipati, My friend Kim Wall's disappearance in Denmark shows: female journalists face danger everywhere, The Guardian
"And her body of journalistic work was almost as expansive as her spirit. Talk to anyone who met her, even once, and they were immediately touched by her almost enchanting positivity. Her humble smile, her crisp wit. She was always excited to see you. And she gave the best hugs."
- Jon Gerberg, Journalist Kim Wall’s wit shone through her work and life, PBS
"Kim was as prolific in her writing as she was talented, creative and empathetic. The topics she covered spanned generations, cultures and government agencies. She wrote of the tour buses traversing Sri Lanka’s battlefields, Chinese feminists in the D.C. Women’s March, and Idi Amin’s torture chambers in Uganda, humanizing these and many other stories for a global audience."
-Coleen Jose, Remembering My Friend, Kim Wall, Overseas Press Club
"For all the skills we teach at Columbia, we can’t teach curiosity and hunger, and yet those are the traits that distinguish a talented feature writer: one who’s never quite satisfied, one who can always think of a few more questions to ask. Kim Wall announced at the start of my semester-long feature writing class that she wanted to write “unexpected” stories, and proceeded to do exactly that."
Karen Stabiner, She was alive in ways that most of us can only dream of being alive, Columbia Journalism Review
"Kim had an astute skill for communicating cultural and political nuance for an international audience. She did so with detail and care as she wrote of Marshallese ancestral land and how the nuclear testing era decimated traditions in sea voyaging, music and cultivation on the low-lying atolls. The bombs also poisoned the islands for generations, causing intractable illnesses among its population."
-Coleen Jose, Kim Wall was a journalist most aspire to be, CNN
"She radiated boldness, the kind that you don’t see often in people out of their early twenties. Many of her friends remember her kindness, intelligence, and courage. She was warm and silly and wanted to know about the world. That inquisitiveness helped fuel her work."
-Alexis Okeowo, My Friend Kim Wall, The New Yorker
"I did not know Kim well, but I met her on a number of occasions and was in frequent email correspondence with her. I admired her hugely and write this piece in the hope that she will be remembered, as she rightly should, as one of the most courageous and principled international journalists to have covered Sri Lanka in the post-war period."
"We must not let the narrative of Kim Wall be just another story of a woman killed by a man. Kim would not have wanted that. She would have wanted more women out in the world, engaging with whatever life threw at them, and becoming stronger from it. And so, as Kim’s mother, Ingrid Wall, so powerfully told all of us who have been in touch since her untimely death, don’t let the dark side win. Rather than focusing on lamenting what could have been, I draw strength and peace from the knowledge that we knew we were going for it."
-Sonia Paul, Kim Wall Was More Than Just Another Woman Killed By A Man, Buzzfeed
"Kim’s reporting outfit – white tennis shoes, her hair in a messy bun – was always somewhere in between casual and confident, clumsy only at a first glance. A bit like her. Biting a pen in the corner of her mouth, she would absent-mindedly stare outside the car window, at a blank spot in her imagination, and then scribble down questions on her notebook until we got to the interview location.
There, she’d start her magic."
- Caterina Clerici, Kim Wall was born to tell stories. I miss my friend's light, and her love, The Guardian