November 20, 2006 12:00 PM

In January, when a roadside bomb in Iraq gravely wounded Bob Woodruff, then coanchor of ABC’s World News Tonight, it brought home the random hell of a war where every step is a crapshoot. Woodruff, 45, suffered severe brain trauma and a fractured skull. For five weeks he lay heavily sedated in Bethesda’s National Naval Medical Center. The prognosis seemed bleak.

“It’s kind of hard to believe it now,” Woodruff said Nov. 6, standing steady at a Washington, D.C., podium with no visible sign of impairment. Thanking the soldiers who helped him out of Iraq and the medical staff who saved his life, he accepted a Victory Award for courage at the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s 20th Anniversary Gala. Woodruff no longer needs physical or speech therapy but does cognitive rehab three times a week to work on “word recall”—calling up desired words at the right time. He’s preparing a TV special on his ordeal and writing a memoir with his wife, Lee, 46, both due out next spring. That seemed a fantasy last March when he awoke from medically induced sedation.

“I couldn’t even remember distinctively that I had four children [Mack, 15, Cathryn, 12, and twins Nora and Claire, 6],” Woodruff said. “My little twins…. I couldn’t remember their names or even that they really were around. I could not even name the names of my brothers.”

Almost immediately, friends say, he began work on regaining his full faculties. He resumed driving this fall and goes to the ABC offices almost daily. “It was like watching a butterfly emerge,” said his friend Dr. Robin Baker. “We have seen Bob’s true nature, his character and his spirit.”

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