Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Get Out NOW
Covering a war like this one is honestly to a degree like rolling dice, hoping that snake eyes does not come out. You assess every risk and decision rapidly and logically. Just how far do you push the envelope to get a picture or story. All intel amongst the Press Corp was that the town of Gori was a no go zone this morning, eve one of the major agencies was reported to have decided that since their armored car took an attack yesterday that they were nit going to risk it today.
But events change so quickly that the line in the sand shifts and your assessment and gut feel is that, yes go for it.
We arrived at the gas station overlooking Gori and saw smoke rising but it looked more like fires than military operations and every now and then a team would bundle into a car and head into the town. We have been into Gori everyday for the past four days and had the feel of the geography and lay of the land. Seeing a bus of people returning after fleeing we jumped in teh car and drove in following the bus. The bus stopped and people got out and we jumped into the bus to film faces and emotions plus a piece to camera, then having chosen a woman we decided to follow her home filming the return with all the heart ache and emotions associated. I only ever knew her as the woman in green, because of the shirt she was wearing.
She had to go to the hospital where she worked to say hello and check in on friends, by now there was probably twenty or so Press in the courtyard of the hospital. When all of a sudden a simple text came through from a fellow journalist somewhere else to a friend.
It simply said three words
GET OUT NOW
The adrenaline kicks in at such speed that decisions that could be workshopped on merit for hours and made in a millisecond.
The options of why are not discussed but with camera rolling we ran for the car, the greatest threat is of an air strike coming in and from that there is no escape. You do not form up into convoys or wait for stragglers the moment we were half in the car we were driving out fast,
Not a crazy speed but enough to make distance fast and back to relative safety, like the gas station we were bombed at yesterday seemed very safe.
The streets were empty as we sped out of town and then face to face we met them
As i sit in the front seat to film out the window, the first of the Russian Armored Personnel Carriers came into my viewfinder, then a second then for the forseeable future we had run into the Russian Army storming into Gori. If they had wanted to shoot us we were dead but speeding cars going the other way are given usually the right of fleeing.
You do not stop to think you film and prey that it will be alright, Steve gave the commentary and I filmed this was a defining moment in our coverage to date.
We rounded a bend and came to the Gas Station, to an enormous mass of Press who had missed the Russians entering because they had come down a road out of sight of the long lens.
You stop for a few minutes, and then the emotions of risk kick in.