• E-mail Steve
August 29, 2004 8:52 p.m.
The phone call on 9/11 came at 1 am. It was 30 seconds long. "Go to the airbase at Aviano." Then to the computer, then pack enough gear for one man to produce a live television picture from anywhere, which meant videophones, satellite phones, camera, tripod, tapes, cables, generator — 14 cases. I packed until morning then flew Aeroflot first class to Rome.
I dropped my cases at a three-star hotel, checked in at the bureau, changed a thousand dollars, then began walking to the Vatican. I called an Italian woman in Atlanta for a restaurant recommendation, handing the phone to the taxi driver.
The choice was Due Ladroni. I sat outside. I began with mussels and fresh bread to soak up the sauce. Then linguine with clams. Then spaghetti with meat, a large piece of meat in the sauce that you broke apart as you ate. I called headquarters. A producer had pitched the idea of going into Afghanistan through Tajikistan. The former Soviet Republic recognized the tiny Northern Alliance, which controlled about five percent of Afghanistan in the remote Northern mountains. They could get you a visa to get into Afghanistan. I flew back to Moscow, then to the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe. I had not slept now in two nights.
Two producers met me in Dushanbe. Both of them wanted to be reporters, so neither was happy about my arrival. They had gotten into Tajikistan but they had not been able to get into Afghanistan yet, so they could not leave me behind.
Alina had a kid about six months old. She left him with her mother to try to get in to the war. The phrase she used was, "Let mommy get her rocks off." The logic being if mommy got her rocks off in this war she could return to Moscow and be a good mother.
The other was Tommy, an American from California who had come to Russia and become a caricature of a Russian man: excessive eating and drinking, insufficient bathing. At 26 he had a gut, a pregnant Russian wife, the ability to swear like a native and dreams of being a correspondent. In Chechnya he would discourse upon dingleberries, his term for objects that
accumulated in his ass-crack for lack of bathing. He would stop walking, swing his right arm around behind his back, dip his shoulders and dig into his ass-crack through his pants with his hand, adding the commentary, "My dingleberry level is high."
Such was the reception committee. It also included a Russian Tajik KGB agent, who was furious at the influx of journalists. I had no visa, but as a journalist with a Russian visa I technically could stay 48 hours in Tajikistan.
The KGB guy wanted to put me on a plane back to Moscow. He wanted to arrest me. All he could do was to confiscate my American passport. There was a helicopter leaving for Afghanistan in the morning, the first one in ten days.
"You won't be on it," the KGB guy said.
He left with my passport.
• Harrigan video archive
Dear Mr. Harrigan,
I just got done reading all your writings. I have not laughed, cried or simply shook my head in such a short time, ever. Thank you for your work. We pray for our soldiers, reporters, and innocents each day.
— Cathy (Findlay, Ohio)
You are, by far, our favorite reporter. You give us, "Just the Facts" as Jack Webb used to say and we appreciate it. We have been worried about your safety several times due to war but on reading your web site (just found it) are now just as worried about the safety of your insides. Why are you eating and drinking some of the things you have mentioned in several blogs? Get checked for parasites. Have your insides checked out completely. The tea with milk? We can assume the milk was clean, refrigerated, pasturized and free of germs that cause Ungulent Fever? Gag! Please, U.S. MREs may not be the greatest, but they sure are way above what you have been stuffing down. Fasting is much better. Your folks must be very upset.
— P.J. (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
You must feel somewhat at home in Russia. I was not at all surprised to hear you were there. I was surprised when at first they just wouldn't say it was a terrorist act. I guess Russia has changed but some parts have not, and most likely won't.
The first time I saw you was in Afghanistan, and you were always crouching, bent over, or ducking. I thought you were short. Go figure! Mom still has you grounded as far as going to Iraq so just be forewarned.
As I read the mail that people send you I hope that the fact so many people really care about you comes as a comfort when you are so far away. If good thoughts can keep you safe, you will be fine.
— Donna (Kansas)
I've been an occasional reader of your blogs but just spent the morning reading through your archives. All I can say is wow. I admire your staying power. Some of the guys who were over there in Iraq with a big show during the initial stages of the war almost seem prima donas compared to you. I need to stress the almost part because it still took a lot of guts to do what they did, its just that you stand out among them.
My favorite so far was about Turbo Golf in Pakistan, with the no name restaurant a close second. I caddied a bit as a kid and can relate. You're a good man Steve, and represent us (Americans) well. If you ever get to Tulsa Oklahoma and have time to golf, Inshalla, I'll get you on Southern Hills where the U.S. Open and PGA Championship has been played several times or at the Golf Club of Oklahoma (which is nicer and more fun but not as prestigious). No ball boys or caddies, but they do have cute beer babes and a ProV1 won't cost as much as in Pakistan!
Keep safe, keep reporting, and good luck to you!
— Joe (Tulsa OK)
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.