Taking a Firefight Live

• Watch the reports Steve references below 

They kept us inside the Bradley for about an hour of firing. We could see red tracer bullets hit the road through the little glass slits in the armor.

Cars were racing around the corner and were getting hit. When they dropped the ramp we got out into the blackness with the camera, the sat phone, the videophone, and the generator. I looked along both sides of the Bradley, trying to figure out which side was safer to use as a block. We set the stuff up in the darkness, in the crashing sound of 30mm cannon fire from the Apache helicopters overhead. Everything was loud, everything was moving. They broke into programming and took us. A few minutes later some Iraqis came crawling out of a building holding up a white flag. Peter zoomed in on them with the night vision lens. They looked green, but you could see them clearly. They broke into programming again. I stood in front of the camera, then stepped out of frame to show the surrender. They stayed on it for a long time. We just kept talking back and forth on the air. It didn't matter what you said when you had a picture like that.

It wasn't easy to capture a firefight live. It wasn't easy to drag gear around in an armored vehicle. After two nights the plastic wheels on our gear case had whittled down to nothing, so we tried to drag the box, then had to carry it, each taking a handle. A lieutenant carried our generator. We let him call home on our Thuraya every night. I sent a message to the engineer in New York asking for a box that had wheels on all sides.

They cornered some Iraqi gunmen (referred to as Hajis) in an amusement park the next night. We threw up the gunfight live but the soldiers made us go back behind a wall. I had to interrupt the live shot to move back. Later, when they killed them, we did a live shot next to a dead body. The guy had a grenade lying next to his right hand. We panned down to his hand during the shot but did not show a closeup of his body. Later on they found a bunch of bombs wired up to make roadside explosives. They dug a huge trench to blow them up. I told them we could put that on live if we organized it, so they worked with us on timing. We began teasing the blast in the 9 pm show, then at the top of the 10. By 10:16 pm they were ready to blow it up. They had a guy who was wounded in the firefight pull the trigger. I said his name on the air, then we got into the back of an armored vehicle to avoid the shock waves. I explained it might take a minute, then tossed the microphone out onto the ramp of the armor and got in. Then it blew up live, a big mushroom cloud behind us.

There were Thais and Poles at the camp. The Poles were allowed to shoot only in self-defense. They blocked traffic on operations. The Thais were told not to shoot at all, only in extreme cases. They never left the camp. They played a game like bocce all day in the heat, tossing metal balls in the dust, and they also played volleyball with their feet. After dinner the Americans came out in the courtyard and stood around and watched them play. I would sit on a sandbag with a popsicle and watch them pass and kick the ball over the net, all with their feet. It was the best moment of my day.

Harrigan's Blog Archive

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.