Detroit foreign correspondent honored in Arab American National Museum

Family honors loved one's career memorialized in Dearborn museum

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer

DEARBORN, Mich. - Seeing personal items of their loved one inside a display case is a bittersweet honor for the family of Serena Shim, the foreign correspondent who grew up in Metro Detroit.

Her mother and sisters donated her passport, press identification and iPad to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

"As much as it is an honor, it hurts," said her sister Fatmeh. "I miss her more than anything, so for me it is kind of hard to see, but it is an honor for my family."

Shim grew up in Livonia, Michigan, and took an interest in journalism. She took an international reporting job with Press TV and her reports took her to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

Fatmeh said her sister Serena was amazing and fearless.

"I think it's an amazing opportunity that people can know what her journey was," Fatmeh said.

Her family said one of her assignments was to investigate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group -- also known as ISIS, a Sunni Islamist rebel group.

"She lived the war with the people. She lived in Turkey for a year, she knew the people.  She knew the plight of the people," her mother, Judy, said.

Her family says her reporting the truth about terrorists earned her many dangerous enemies.

"Everything that she has said over the years, everything she has reported, going back even five years, how did she know? You followed ISIS before there was no ISIS. I mean, she literally sat in tents that were supposed to be refugee tents with high-ranking members," Judy said. 

Shim was killed in a fiery crash Oct. 19, 2014. Police reports dubbed the crash an accident. But Serena Shim's family wants more investigation. They said they don't think the story adds up.

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In the meantime, they can go to the museum to remember and honor Shim and feel comfort knowing others will learn about her life and career.

"It's almost like I can visit her grave, but in real life that she has taken her place in history and she's from here. What a better place to be," Judy said.

The Arab American National Museum says people have found Serena's display interesting and it's important to showcase modern-day artifacts to help tell the story of Arab Americans today.

"I think being able to see what somebody is able to do today and the investigative reporting and work that she was able to do was a great inspiration," said Elyssa Bisoski, the curator of collections at the Arab American National Museum. "We think that her living here in metro Detroit, then working overseas as a foreign correspondent, her heritage really informed her work, I believe, and her decision to do that kind of work.  So we really wanted to tell that story. It's a major part of people who want to stay connected to that part of the world, so we want to make sure that story is told for future generations."

Shim's family said they knew she would make history. They work with journalists and social media to keep her story alive.

Fatmeh is thankful the display in the museum is also helpful to Shim's two young children.

"It makes me feel happy that people are going to know what she did. The people that don't know about her can educate themselves about her," Fatmeh said. "But what makes me more happy is the fact that her kids lost a parent, and a lot of people lose a parent, but they don't have the opportunity to go to a museum and see what their mother did or to even Google their mom and know that she was this great, powerful woman. So it makes me really happy for her kids too."

For more information, click here to visit the museum's website.

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