Marilyn Manuel's family and friends had gathered to mourn at their New York City home after hearing the worst: officials told them she had been killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters.
Then, a telephone call early on Thursday brought a miracle - Manuel's voice on the line, calling from a hospital outside Baghdad.
"We're in disbelief... What are the chances?" said her daughter, Vanessa Manuel-Mazzullo, 29.
She said that her mother, who came to the US from the Philippines as an 18-year UN employee 20 years ago, told them she had undergone eye surgery. "Her voice sounded strong, and we're hopeful," her daughter said.
In Manila, where the family has relatives, Ms Manuel's cousin, Susan de Vera, said she had been able to borrow a mobile phone from a nurse at a makeshift hospital to call her family in New York, not knowing that they were already grieving.
Ms Manuel, who has four children, has travelled to Liberia, Somalia and East Timor as well as Iraq in her work for the UN, her daughter said. Ms de Vera said Ms Manuel's husband, Benjamin, had not been able to come to terms with the report of her death.
"He could not accept that she was dead and as it turns out he was right," Ms de Vera said. "If she had not been able to borrow a cell phone, we would still be grieving."Reuse content