Close Call in Dushanbe

E-mail Steve

August 31,  2004  7:58 p.m.

The camerawoman Alina said she and the producer Tommy had seats on the helicopter the next morning. That meant they would go to Afghanistan and leave me in Dushanbe. That would mean Tommy would be reporting from Afghanistan and I would be sitting in Tajikistan, waiting for a helicopter that would never come.

"We knew you would freak out about it," Alina said. "We talked about it before you got here. We knew you'd think we were plotting against you. But Tommy's done everything to get you on that helicopter."

The driver's name was Rakhmat, which meant "thank you," so they called him Thank-You. He had a Volga but was not inside the car. Alina walked around the dark lot screaming "Thank-you," until finally Thank-you appeared.

The Volga had no right window. Thank-you slept in the car. His six children began school in 14 days. His goal was to make enough money to outfit them, so each could begin the school year.

The air was still hot at night in Dushanbe with no breeze. They ate on the balcony of the only restaurant open. Photographers, cameramen and producers sat around big tables, eating kabobs, drinking beer and smoking. No one was in a hurry to get anywhere.

They ordered chicken kabobs and french fries.

"Hot," Tommy said. He had been eating here for three days. Sometimes the fries were not hot. There was also a problem with the local beer. The green labels were bootleg. Tommy sent his back for a blue label.

I had gotten a visa after all. I had a second Irish passport. Tommy already knew the visa guys well. They kept the office open, put a visa in the Irish passport for $70 plus $100 tip. The next morning all was set; they were out at the runway with Russian TV. Tommy was drinking shots of warm vodka with them, followed by a chug of apple juice from a cardboard carton, when the KGB guy drove up.

 "You're not on the list," he pointed at me.

Tommy set up a satellite phone on the roof of the car. He began calling the KGB guy's bosses. In four days he probably added 100 phone numbers to his Palm pilot. The Russians agreed not to fly unless they all flew. Two hours later the KGB guy drove back up in his black Volga.

"You can fly," he said.

I walked up to the passenger window and smiled at him.

"Wait a minute," I said. "Someday you and I are going to be friends."

The Volga drove off.

"That guy hates me," I said.

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)

Dear Steve,

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)

Hi Steve,
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.