An excerpt from the New Zealand Herald (read in full here):
Sitting in a military helicopter after a kidnapping and shoot-out in Yemen, Mary Quin stared at the bodies of two fellow tourists, wrapped in blankets and lying at her feet.
It was 1998 and the West was still adjusting to Islamic militant fundamentalism. The Palmerston North expat, who’d climbed to high executive roles with US-based multinationals, was one of a party of 18 tourists taken hostage in Yemen.
When Yemeni soldiers confronted the kidnappers Quin was used as a human shield in the ensuing gun battle, an AK-47 jammed into her spine. But when her captor was shot, she wrestled the automatic weapon from his grasp – one foot on his head for leverage – and ran to safety.
Her parting shot: “Salaam alaikum, mother-f*****.” Four tourists were killed by their captors and two others seriously wounded. Several kidnappers were killed.
“It was pretty clear at the time that anyone of us could have been killed,” Quin tells the Weekend Herald. “There was a really strong sense that, but for where I was standing, it could have been my body wrapped in a blanket.”
This year Quin – now based in Wellington as chief executive of Callaghan Innovation – testified at the Manhattan trial of the kidnapping mastermind, fundamentalist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. That steely resolve and her courage under fire persuaded a panel of senior Herald editors that she should be a joint winner of New Zealander of the Year award.