E-mail Steve

Oct. 12,  2004 7:52 AM
Amman, Jordan

I never liked Chinook helicopters. They are big and slow, an easy target, but it was still safer than driving to the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The flight was only fifteen minutes. There were big round windows in the Chinook. It felt like being in a fishbowl. I tried to move away from the window behind my back, as if that would do any good, but the seatbelt did not let me move. It was 1:30 a.m. and I was the only passenger. All the houses below were lit up. What power shortage? Because of security reasons it was safer to fly at night and drive during the day, so I drove to the Green Zone before dark then sat on a couch and waited 8 hours for takeoff time. It would take me more than a day to traverse the 30 miles to Fallujah, a slower pace than Sherman's marchers, or certainly Jackson's.

Since the U.S./Iraqi military offensive began in Samarra there has been a lot of speculation about Fallujah — that there would be a major battle to retake control of the city before Iraqi elections scheduled for January. I wanted to try and get an idea if there was going to be a big fight there.

Not only are Chinooks big and slow, they are noisy. After a few minutes my ears were in real pain from the high screech of the motors. It was time to display, to no one, a master packing move. In the dark I reached out to my Tumi messenger bag, always within arm's reach. Without being able to see the bag in the darkness I flipped open the outer flap to the inner mesh pocket, unzipped it and felt for a circular plastic container. It contained my Hoppe's #9 earplugs. Not the cheap roll up foam ones that always pop out, the Hoppe's are soft plastic, shaped like a rounded Chritstmas tree. I stuck them in deep and the screaching disappeared. Frank Giglio had given them to me a year earlier. It was satisfying cutting the noise, knowing where the plugs were, and remembering they were a gift.

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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.