It’s hard to forget the story of Nick Berg. Nick was an American businessman who went to Iraq after the US invasion. He was abducted in 2004 by individuals claiming to be Islamic militants. Shortly after his capture, a video was released on the Internet showing Nick’s beheading at the hands of his captors. Nick’s father, Michael Berg, visited the MobileBooth in Norfolk, Virginia to share memories of his son.
“He was happiest a couple of thousand feet off the ground” says Michael Berg.
“He started his business, which he called Prometheus Methods Tower Service Incorporated, because Prometheus was the god who brought fire.” says Michael. Nick was in the business of building and repairing radio towers. He traveled widely, and often offered his services to poor communities in developing countries like Uganda and Kenya, Michael remembered.
“He developed this little company from that to one that employed five people.” said Michael. “He was entrepreneurial, but he was not interested in money except as a means of furthering his charity. I’ve always said that the child was father of the man. I often looked to Nick because he just had it so all together and I just, I really wanted to be more like him.”
It was during Nick’s second trip to war-torn Iraq, as an independent contractor helping to repair and build radio towers, that he was abducted. Nick was in Mosul, in the northern part of the country, when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal became public. “It so enraged the citizenry of Iraq,” said Michael. “It changed the whole texture of the war.”
Days before the scandal broke, Nick had been detained by military police and was finally released after being held for thirteen days.Â HeÂ began traveling from Mosul back to Baghdad, with the intent of returning to the United States. “He calls us on the phone and he tells us that everything is okay, that he’s going to get out as quickly as he can but that he’s not going to do anything rash and take a route that would be dangerous.”
“I remember telling him to ‘Stay low.’ That was one of the things he always said, ‘Stay low.’ I remember him telling me a lot of different routes he might take instead of the direct route which he ended up taking,” recalled Michael. “I didn’t want to get into, you know, saying ‘I love you.’ I didn’t want to say anything at this point because I felt like it’s like saying ‘I’m afraid I may never see you again.’ Maybe he felt the same way. I don’t know.” That was the last time Michael spoke with Nick.
Michael was notified about Nick’s death by the U.S. State Department and he grappled with whether or not to share the details of Nick’s execution with his family. “When [my friend] heard the news about Nick I told him what I hadn’t told anyone yet about how Nick was killed and that I hadn’t told my wife and kids.” Michael’s friend encouraged him to tell his family and an hour after he told them, the video of Nick’s execution was broadcast on the Internet.
When I asked Michael what he would like to say to and about Nick, his reply was simple, “To Nick, I would like to say the ‘I love you’ that I didn’t say on April 9th when he called home. To know Nick was to know a unique individual, a real one-of-a-kind person who was a creative genius and wanted to harness that creative genius to help whoever was in need.”
Special thanks to Lilly Sullivan and Nina Porzucki.