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Remembering Allan: a tribute to Jill Carroll's interpreter

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Omar Fekeiki, an Iraqi who had known Allan since the late 1990s, was a college student when he first walked into Allan's music shop. "Allan needed to provide for his family, and what he was good at was the English language," he says.

Now a special correspondent in Baghdad for The Washington Post, Mr. Fekeiki says, "For some of us, it's the chance to be a journalist that brings us in, but Allan wasn't like that. Like the doctors and pharmacists and engineers you see doing this job," he adds, "he used his skill to have a job and make a living."

A correspondent's perspective

I worked with Allan while on a stint in Iraq in December, just before the national elections. During those weeks, I came to know an easygoing young man who took his job seriously, but who liked to gossip, always good-naturedly, about Iraqi politicians or international stars. He dressed nattily - crisp jeans and a sport shirt or T-shirt that looked more Western than Iraqi. And while he was interested enough in the politics of what then was an Iraq deep in campaign mode, he saved his passion for his young family.

I had known other interpreters during my stints in Iraq who seemed to use the job to escape their families and those duties, but clearly for Allan, the job - as interesting as it was to him - was a means to an end. He was not a daredevil, not even really a newshound. Which somehow makes his death all the more tragic.

"His family was his top priority, and his kids were his life," says Carolyne Hanna, a cousin now living in Chicago who played with a young Allan until her family left Iraq in 1982. "Sure, he did it for the money, but it was also something he liked that he was good at."

The Allan I knew less well was the young man who had run the music shop, Allan Melody, in Baghdad's once-chic A'arasat neighborhood. That Allan had turned to family in the States to send him the latest music so he could be up to date. "He'd send me a list, and I'd send him 20 CDs at a time," says Ms. Hanna.

Allan shuttered the shop after receiving death threats and having an unexploded hand grenade tossed through the front window. But he kept the dream of being a music producer.

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