I’m a humanitarian. It says so on my award – so it must be true.
Last night was one to remember. Pamela Anderson, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas, Jay Leno and Steve Buscemi mingled with lots of people I didn’t recognise, but who definitely had much more money than taste. Plenty of great photo opportunities for the family album but unfortunately cameras were banned so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous until I walked into the ballroom and saw just how big the event was, with around 1400 guests. Then I crapped myself.
Snub of the evening came soon after I’d taken my seat at the dinner table when the waiter refused to serve me wine because I didn’t have ID. Ah, the good old USA. I can get my leg blown off by a landmine but I can’t get a drink in California without showing my passport. Thankfully, actor William H Macy vouched that I was over 21 and thus entitled to a glass of the demon drink.
Then the back-slapping began, with everyone saying how wonderful everyone else was in between vegetarian dinner courses.
I managed to stay sober until after dinner when I was called up to collect my award and give my acceptance speech….and yes, of course I did my ever-popular “take your leg off and wave it in the air” party piece. It never fails.
Here's the addition to the mantlepiece.
Here’s the speech:
It’s a huge privilege – not to say a little overwhelming -- to be here this evening to accept this award. I’d like to thank Paul and Heather and Adopt-A-Minefield for this recognition and the amazing people who work for the Mines Advisory Group – some of whom are here this evening -- for giving me a cause and a purpose when I needed it most.
On April 2nd 2003 I smelled explosives and burnt meat and I knew that my life would never be the same again.
I had been working in Northern Iraq for two months, covering the war against Saddam Hussein as it unfolded.
While reporting from Kifri, a town about 80 miles north of Baghdad, I stepped on an unmarked anti-personnel landmine left behind by retreating Iraqi forces, which blew my right heel wide open.
Thinking we were coming under mortar attack, my cameraman, Kaveh Golestan, instinctively tried to run for safety.
But in doing so he stepped on one mine and was thrown forward onto a second.
He was killed instantly.
Surgeons did their best, but five days after stepping on that landmine, my leg was amputated below the knee.
In these grand surroundings, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re here.
We’re here because people in more than 80 countries are forced to risk their lives every day because landmines contaminate their villages and their fields.
We’re here because, every year, thousands of people are killed and injured by weapons that don’t discriminate between soldier or civilian, between man, woman and child.
And by being here every one of you is making a difference.
Because the money raised here this evening will go directly towards mine clearance and survivor assistance and will bring the day when the world is finally freed of the scourge of landmines that little bit closer.
And here's what Reuters had to say about the evening.