Oct. 8, 2005 9:17 p.m.
If you have two live shots close together it makes no sense to go back in the workspace, also known as "the sub," so you sit with the floodlights on and look out on the mosque. I've looked out on that blue dome from a variety of angles over the past three years, from Saddam's Information Ministry, and from different hotels, an unchanging backdrop to all the events around it.
Sitting out and looking at Baghdad at night around the mosque — it is remarkably quiet, just a few cars moving around a traffic circle and a few pop, pop, pops of a Kalashnikov, sometimes single shots, sometimes a burst. If it wasn't for the shooting, if it wasn't for the fact that you can't go out there without getting killed or kidnapped, it would be a decent place to look out on, like a porch on a lake. But with the pops you can never relax. You just can't ignore it.
A stray cat came by, a kitten, which stared up into the light then ran off, then a ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk — a .50-caliber gun, the big gun on top of some humvees. Those shells go through walls. I once saw a woman try to kill an anti-government fighter who had shot at her from a building. She traced what she thought would be his path down an apartment stairway behind a brick wall — ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, blasting apart the brick. She didn't know whether she got him or not. I don't know who was firing out there tonight. It was out in the night, a long way away.
Oct. 6, 2005 4:39 p.m.
Two shots that I thought were directed at me, and another man alongside me, sent me into my first run of the trip. A gun run is not pretty, the limbs so stiff and the body unnaturally bent in half — like part of you is trying to move and part of you is afraid to go. Sandals did not help the traction. I've seen it on tape before, once in Karbala, once in Congo, bent over in half, stiff arms pumping towards the goal of cover — a Bradley, a building, a car — something to somehow escape the feeling that you are naked.
Three boiled eggs, Laughing Cow cheese, and a piece of Iraqi Samoun bread for breakfast alone in the newsroom. A boom outside, a pretty big one, which a few hours later I would note down as 1/4. One dead, four wounded. I rolled the eggs in salt in a plastic bowl. Producer Dragon had told me the day before salt is no good for you.
Oct. 5, 2005 11 a.m.
When the fire alarm rang in the town where I grew up the kids would run to the Miller's lawn. It was the side of a hill that offered a good view of Milton Road. The kids would sit on the grass and wait, knees up, all next to each other, staring down the hill at the road until after a few seconds the red fire engines would roar by.
The alarm rang like Morse code — a few deep blasts, then a pause, then a few more. Then you could look at the calendar hanging in the kitchen and tell where the fire was. Some old people would already know by the number of blasts; a 2-3-2 meant Purchase Street. If they repeated the blasts more than once it was a big fire. Sometimes on a quiet night you could hear the fire alarm from a neighboring town. "That must be Harrison," someone would say.
So you got into the habit, when you heard those blasts, of counting them, even if there was no calendar and you were out in town.
This morning I heard a blast, then another, and began counting to myself quietly in bed after each blast: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve...then a pause, then sirens.
Oct. 4, 2005
A fly fell into my shake.
A bomb hit near my building.
The fly landed on the edge of the blender. I tried to wave it off, but there was another. Then there were two on the inside of the plastic. I reached in with my fingers.
Nobody talked or moved for a second after the explosion.
When I reached in with my fingers one fly fell into the yellow. He kept moving. I stood up and tried to hold my voice down, but it was raised, too much, I saw in someone's eyes, for a fly.
Oct. 3, 2005
The bag of Whoppers came into the newsroom.
"I'll make sure they get distributed," I said.
There were Whoppers, Chicken Whoppers and Subway sandwiches. The Whoppers would go first. Two other people were at the bag. I took a Whopper for myself and put a Whopper in the top drawer for producer Dragon. He had done the same for me the week before — when I came in all the Whoppers were gone, and he slid open the top drawer.
As far as candy goes, there is Twix and Kit Kat. My brother told me that Twix were only good cold. After much experimentation I disagree with that. I find, on the contrary, that Twix are only good warm. They are only good after you eat three or four packs of double bars warm enough to leave a layer of melted chocolate on your thumb and two fingers. You sit with fingers extended for a moment, with no other solution than to clean them off with your mouth before tearing open another wrapper. Kit Kat, on the other hand, are only good cold. They go fast, though. When there are none in the cabinet Majdi has a supply in his room. When bananas are out there is a supply usually hidden under a pot in the kitchen.
Oct. 2, 2005 7:53 p.m.
The vest felt light on my back. Previously, when you had to pack vests and carry them around they weighed a ton, but now mine feels like a slip of leather. It doesn't seem big enough around the neck, around the shoulders. I pull the groin cover down and it doesn't go low enough. I like the new shoulder guards the Marines have. I also could use a new neckpiece. My helmet has space for coms around the ears, too much space. They also make protective pants...even a ballistic blanket.
Every time you go out you have to weigh whether what you are going out for is worth risking the lives of a lot of people. Every step you take or every block you drive could be over a bomb. My sense is that people don't weigh this enough. You always have to weigh risk versus reward.
On the way out one of the men ducked around into a ditch. A filthy puppy came out wagging his tail and urinating on himself. The man took a long time to pet the dog's dirty white head over and over until it was time to leave, then the dog followed at his heels, groaning for more.
Almost finished the Lou Gehrig book. It's the start of the '38 season and Lou is sick but he doesn't know it yet.
• E-mail Harrigan
Thank you for your excellent journalism and especially your coverage of the drug war going on in Nuevo Laredo. While most of Mexico is fairly safe to travel and live, the border areas are especially dangerous. Perhaps ths situation would begin to be alieviated if Americans stopped using illegal drugs!
I look for your blogs every day. I hope that you come home soon. I appreciate your hard, excellent work. Take care.
I've admired your reporting all along, and recently found your blog. You're so honest.
Great work on the storms here you will be missed. Tell the boys in Iraq we support them 100%
Stay safe! We were waiting to see where you would be during the Hurricane Rita coverage - you did a fabulous job covering Hurricane Katrina. We have been watching you since you were covering the war in Afghanistan yelling at your camerman to "get down" during an attack. Thanks for reporting the news "fair and balanced" as always. You are a true professional and an asset to FOX News.
Joe and Lynn C.