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August 10, 2004 6:33 a.m.
In the old days under Saddam, there were about twenty desks outside the Ministry of Information, all along in a row, with a couple of satellite dishes. By 3 a.m. everyone had gone home, even the Russians who smoked and swore at each other all night. On each desk there was a satellite phone. Some companies had cables hooked up so you could sit in your office in the press center and dial up to the Internet through the sat phone antennae outside. We had no engineer, and I had a short cable, so I sat outside at the desk in semi-darkness to dial up and see what the world was saying.
We had a break until 6 a.m., which was the 10 p.m. show back in the U.S., so from 3 to 6 my crew would go back to the hotel to eat or sleep and I would go sit out at the sat phone: a long row of empty desks, an iron bar gate, an empty road and a block of apartments — some with the lights still on. The only sound was the rustling where the cats had gotten into the garbage, searching through all the takeout food the journalists left behind.
The cats were skinny, dirty and ran when you approached, except for a white cat with a black eye and a black tail. She approached me straightforwardly one 3 a.m., looked me in the eye and meowed.
"White cat," I said, and she meowed some more and came closer. She wanted food and wanted to be pet, but she was filthy. I didn't want to touch her. I touched her head with two fingers and she stretched up and sharpened her claws into the thigh of my pants.
"White cat," I said. Now she was meowing steadily. I got her milk in a styrofoam soup container and she jumped up on the table and drank it. The next night she was back for more.
"White cat," I said.
Now all inhibitions were gone. White cat began to jump on my lap. When I stood, she jumped on the table. When I tried to keep working on the computer she stood on it, hitting keys with her paws, succeeding not only in exiting from the existing program but in shutting the computer off.
I looked to my left. The team was there, watching, smiling.
"Can we feed her?" I asked.
Moyed got her milk. She drank it and meowed.
"How about some fish?" I asked.
Moyed said something in Arabic. Ra-ed went to get a can of tuna. Falah gave him his Leatherman® to open it, but I could tell he wasn't happy about getting fish on his leatherman for a cat. He cleaned the metal blade carefully with a tissue. Now the office smelled like tuna.
"If you leave here, I will kill the cat," Ra-ed said, smiling.
"Ra-ed," I said. We looked at each other.
"No," he said, "I was only kidding."
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Steve, I appreciate your blog. Today our 19-y/o is flying to Iraq to serve his first mission as a Marine. I am determined to see the glass as half full when I hear of news on the war on terror in Iraq and anywhere. It is difficult because each day I hear so much of the negative, which, I find out later, isn’t always negative, and this makes it unfair and unbalanced! When I hear something of the positive, I say, why didn’t we hear THAT 50 times like we heard the BAD, negative story 50 times!! When the positive IS there, I am determined to see it! Thank you for your part in getting it out to us.
— Jeannie, a mom
I love reading your stories and hearing your reports on FOX. You are a terrific reporter! I know it can't always be easy, but just know that there are lots of us waiting to read your blogs and hear your reports. Thanks a lot for all of your hard work!
I just read your recent "blog" and my heartbeat accelerated. I swear I felt your anxiety! My husband returned from Iraq in September, having spent 6 months with 1MEF. I spent many nights awake, watching FOX , simultaneously laughing and crying as I realized that Ollie was actually enjoying himself and the FOX embedded reporters were getting a taste of what it means to be a Marine, adrenaline producing, good and bad. Thank you for your service to our country. May the American people continue to treasure truth in journalism.
All I can say is WOW. The military deserve much more respect than they get. It is very hard for people back in the United States to understand what is really going on over there and you do a great job of trying to relay circumstances to us. Please tell the military that we respect their service, and pray for their safe return.
Keep up the good work and your head down.
— Cathy (Beaver, PA)
Steve.. I check daily for your next Blog. I feel humbled by your experiences...especially, Rwanda. I'm glad you are learning Arabic (sounds like it will come in useful!) Even before you started your Blogs, I worried for you.. and looked forward to your next report. I sure wish you would smile a bit more or even laugh... but then, after reading your accounts, I understand why. Take care of yourself and know that what you are doing in life really matters!
— Teresa (Gainesville, VA)
As a Vietnam Veteran, I know how frightening combat can be. But at least in the Army I could shoot back. As a reporter, you can't even do that. You have to just gut up and do your job. For that you have earned my utmost respect. Jim from Virginia told you to keep your head down. May I suggest that you keep the other end down as well?
For you, one loud AIRBORNE!
Jim (Winston-Salem, NC)
Thank you for your insightfulness. I can only imagine the fear you must have felt. Feeling trapped as the heat radiated and wondering if the next round of fire is going to be the last you ever hear. I admire you for your ability to suppress the panic, not show your vulnerability and allowing the unit to complete it's mission. Personally, I wouldn't have needed to go outside the Bradley, I would have urinated all over myself. You must have wanted to scream!
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.