August 18, 2004 5:20 p.m.
Something I saw in Chechnya ten years ago has had me covering wars ever since. The Chechens had taken a bus load of Russian hostages and taken the bus into a village. Russian forces surrounded the village and there was a standoff for a couple of days. The Chechens forced the hostages to dig trenches, preparing for an assault. Eventually three Russian helicopters showed up, floating over the village in a lazy circle. It was cold and wet and cloudy, as it almost always is in a Chechen winter. About 50 journalists had made it down for the hostage standoff. They stood and froze and smoked. The Russian military kept us on a hill outside of the village. The helicopters circled slowly counterclockwise. I was holding a satellite telephone in my hand, watching them circle. Suddenly one sent down a streak of fire into the village. It was an orange stream from the white sky, a missile, and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. As the helicopters floated over in a circle, a different one would lean in and fire a missile down into the village on each pass. I stood on the hill, transfixed.
By the time the second Chechen war started you couldn't go on the Chechen side anymore. They kidnapped a Russian journalist, raped her for six months then sold her back for $3 million. They kidnapped aid workers and cut off their heads. They captured Russian troops and videotaped themselves cutting off their fingers and slicing open their necks. The houses in Chechnya were bombed to rubble, entire villages wiped out, families scattered. When you got out of a Russian armored vehicle in the capital Grozny, once a city of 400,000 people, it felt like you were on the moon. I remember doing a standup and a small group of Chechens gathered near the camera. Two of them looked me over, then one said to the other:
"What do you think, a lemon?"
Lemon, limon, was slang in Russian for million. The men figured my value at $2 million if I was kidnapped. If you wanted to cover the war now you had to do it on the Russian side. And they did not want any press...
Your article on "911: I Never Really Got It" was right on target. The office where I work is directly across the Potomac River from the Pentagon. My co-workers and I were in our director's office watching the twin towers billow with that thick black smoke when we heard and felt the concussion from flight 77 as it slammed into our Pentagon. Our world came to a halt. It was no longer something that was happening in someone else's backyard, something we were watching on a 26 inch color t.v. screen — It was pounding on our front door and incessantly ringing the door bell like a madman at 2 am - WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!. It was surreal. We found ourselves with the grizzly task of holding front row tickets to the carnage that ensued. It was now our friends, our co-workers, our family members that were being murdered. It is an experience that is seared into our memories for life.
Keep up the good job Steve, we appreciate you putting yourself in harm's way to give the American public an truly objective view of what we're doing doing in Iraq. Stay safe.
— MSGT PATRICK
I was stationed on a Navy ship off the coast of India on the way to the gulf when 9-11 happened. It was so surreal looking at the video. It was like watching a special effects scene in a movie. Like you, we never could relate to the carnage that took place. We were isolated. The same can be said of civilians who watch the war on TV. It's just not the same as being there. It's too unreal for their minds to comprehend.
— Marcus (Yokosuka, Japan)
— Laurie & Steven (Irving, TX)
I really enjoyed your story about "White Cat." It really touched me. I've always been an animal lover - all kinds of animals. But I think this goes further than that. No matter how bad things get in this world, how terrible people can be to one another, we are reminded of the joy in simple things and not to take them for granted. Yeah, I'm a romantic at heart and maybe an optimist, too. Thank you for sharing this story. It made me smile.
— Linda (Citrus Springs, Florida)
Thanks as always for your wonderful blogs. I am printing them — you are now in a three-ring notebook. When your blog novel ends, I might bind you in duct tape; seems appropriate for our times.
First I must tell you my Mother has said "I really don't want him to go back to Iraq." She's pretty much telling you that you can't go. But you know how Moms are. I live with my Mom and she was leaving on Sept. 11 to help her 90-year-old sister move. She left just as the first plane hit. When she got there, her sisters did not want to watch, not having grasped the big picture. I was alone watching with disbelief as the events unfolded. It's strange how these things are so compelling to watch on TV, so far removed in Kansas, but something that will change your life forever.
As always be safe and thanks for all your good work. — Donna
I really enjoyed reading 'White Cat.' You're doing a great job of personalizing your experiences over there. I hope you stay safe and I hope your 'white cat' stays safe, too.
Steve, I've watched you with admiration from the start of this war. You're a gutsy guy, a stalwart. You report concisely and with passion. I'm easily old enough to be your mother, and I worry about you as well as all our people there. Stay safe.
— Vera (Monroe, CT)
Your story reminded me of Nam. There were few dogs and no cats. We wish there had been a cat. The cat would have kept the rats out of the barracks and trash which would have meant we wouldn't be killing them. I used a drawer once and a piece of chain link fence another time. I'm glad I was successful each time. Of course there were some that got away.
Lou (USA Ret), Colorado Springs, CO
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
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.