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In this business you travel much and run into others in the business. You run into people in the business either at a remote location or at an airport.
On Tuesday, I was in the airport in New York City headed to D.C. and a freelance photographer named Josh Williams came up to me and introduced himself. He freelances for many news organizations — including The New York Post — and has covered many of the same stories that I have covered. We had never met before but when we compared notes, we realized that we had covered several of the same stories.
We struck up a conversation and Josh said he was headed to Boston to cover the Entwistle double murder investigation and to cover the funeral for the victims. His flight was not leaving for more than an hour... and mine (of course) was late.
We talked for about an hour about all sorts of things and naturally got on the topic of travel. He told me that he had been to Iraq to shoot pictures more than a year ago and he ran into and met former ABC anchor Peter Jennings. He was very impressed with Jennings — he said that Jennings went out of his way to help him. Jennings did not know him, but apparently that did not matter. Jennings was just willing to help him. To Jennings, Josh was a new journalist attempting to cover the war.
I asked him for the details of Jennings helping him and he related the story to me. He also said that he had written an article about their meeting and Jennings kindness to him but that he had not had it published. I said, "Send it to me and I will post it on the blog." I figured you would be interested. I was and I am.
So here is Josh's article about meeting Peter Jennings in Kuwait:
By Josh Williams
The biggest logistic snag was transportation from the Kuwait International Airport to the Military airbase where I would board a C-130 and land in Baghdad. This was my first piece of work as a journalist from a combat zone; in addition three days prior to my arrival in Kuwait there was an assassination attempt on five Westerners outside of their hotel. I was making this trip on pure gut instinct — I was going as freelancer and obtained an embed based on contacts in a Civil Affairs unit and my own military background. As a freelancer I had zero logistical support and for this to be successful I would need a couple of breaks, and to my surprise the first one came minutes after landing on Arab soil in Kuwait.
While awaiting the collector's stamp in my passport an extremely familiar voice sounded in the background: "Last time I was here I used my Canadian passport, this time I am going to use my new American one," said the voice. I knew who it was before I turned to look at the face, it was the late ABC anchorman Peter Jennings.
Jennings was traveling with a crew of approximately 10 others that were part of the ABC team, a conglomerate of those based in different parts of the world. One of those was the cameraman from ABC that was recently injured, Doug Vogt, along with Bob Woodruff. As I proceeded to the baggage claim area, I figured if I drummed up the courage to chat up with Mr. Jennings I might be able to hit him up for a ride to the military airbase. I introduced myself as a freelance photojournalist that works mainly for the New York Post. He told me that he was a bit surprised to see The Post covering a story like this. I continued on and explained to him that I had a hunch about this being a big story and was on my own on this one.
After making minimal small talk I knew I did not have much time so I got to the point: "I have pretty much mapped out the whole trip except for one major snag, I was unable to arrange a ride from this airport to the military airbase, if you are headed that way is there any chase I can piggyback with your crew?" I asked.
He told me that was fine but first they were going to their hotel for a shower and a bite to eat I was welcome to come join them. Everyone had their luggage except for a "Nightline" reporter who was missing a bag that contained his flak jacket and their Kuwait contact was awaiting them in a black SUV with tinted out windows. We loaded up the vehicle and started off for the hotel.
"I was last here during the first gulf war, the place was pretty gutted out. The space needle to your left is the iconic tourist attraction of Kuwait City," said Jennings. He continued by asking me about my family and told him I actually grew up on a farm south of Rochester, New York where we sold John Deere tractors. "They (John Deere) are too expensive for me," Jennings quipped. He continued, "Go figure who would imagine we would be here in Kuwait and talking about tractors?"
Not bad I thought to myself I am getting my own personal tour of Kuwait by Peter Jennings, I might make it through this trip alive, it was an omen of the good fortune soon to come for this assignment. We arrived at the hotel and I jumped out of the vehicle to grab my gear. The door popped open and as I turned around with my bags in hand I almost kicked the bellman over, everyone from the crew was sort of standing there looking at me like; OK so the young guy hasn't had his bags carried before.
Everyone was checking in and I was sitting on a fancy couch in the lobby of the almost completely gold-plated hotel and Mr. Jennings asked if I needed anything else and even offered a phone to use so I could call my wife and let her know I was OK. Mr. Jennings then gave me a room key and said that he would meet me downstairs for a bite to eat before we went to the airport.
On the phone with my wife I calmly explained to her I was safe and going to have lunch with Peter Jennings before we left for Baghdad, she said "OK" — unsurprised at this point that anything that comes out of my mouth.
After freshening up in the room, I returned downstairs and sat at a dining table where a very fancy buffet-style lunch was set up. Arab men in traditional garb wandered in with numerous women following. Mr. Jennings came down shortly after I sat down and said, "You had better eat up. It's probably that last good meal for a while." He asked me about the life of a freelancer and compared the differences to being a staffer, which he had been since he was 17. We discussed the New York City tabloid wars and other things including the recent interview he did with former President Clinton. "He really surprised me when he lost his cool, I never expected that," said Jennings, referring to his heated exchange in regards to how the media covered the Clinton's possible impeachment.
We finished up our meal chatting away like we had on numerous occasions and I realized that this is what made him so great as a journalist. I was a nobody freelancer sitting comfortably in Kuwait about to go cover war and I felt so at ease. At that point I had a gut feeling that this was soon to be the greatest professional experience of my life, and it clearly was.
After we arrived at the military airbase, his crew took naps and checked their gear while Mr. Jennings mingled with soldiers of all ranks. He took a break from talking to the soldiers inside a makeshift bunker while making some notes on a legal yellow pad. I knew that I would have to take one to document this experience, but I didn't want to press the situation so after our spiral landing in Baghdad I decided I would take a couple frames of him.
I had my camera out and snapped three frames of Mr. Jennings walking away from the C-130 while he carried his flak jacket in hand. He said something to me when he saw me snapping the frames, but I could not hear him due to the noise of the plane. Two generals quickly whisked him and his crew away, and I was off to a pay phone to find the unit I was going to be embedded with.
It was shortly after I returned from Iraq that it was announced that Mr. Jennings had lung cancer. To say the least I will be forever grateful for his generosity, but more importantly watching him work taught me more about working with humility, something that the modern-day journalist seems to overlook.
One other thing about Josh — who is very enterprising, to say the least — he has a Web site of some of his pictures. You can check them out at: www.photojoshwilliams.com.
Now for some e-mails from you:
E-mail No. 1
I think that it was appropriate that Ms. Sheehan was arrested and taken out. There are rules to follow and if you don't obey then there are consequences.
If she had chosen to sit quietly with her t-shirt displayed as protest, then I don't think she would have been arrested. But being disrespectful of the event and the speaker, does not show protesting a cause or a belief. It shows that the person causing the chaos is not actually wanting individual attention.
E-mail No. 2
I admire Cindy Sheehan for standing up for her beliefs and I am appalled that this administration insists on silencing anyone who dares to speak up against them. She should not have been arrested.
George W. Bush would have much more credibility if he at least acted like he was listening to other views than his own. I have no respect for someone who will not tolerate differing views.
E-mail No. 3
Yes, she should have been arrested and sent away FOREVER never to be heard from again. Ditto to the senator that invited her there. Was not the time or the place. But that has never stopped her before.
E-mail No. 4
I think that anyone disturbing the peace or being disorderly should be arrested no matter what they public notability maybe. Of course, she did this for the press coverage. I guess I am just old fashion enough to believe that respect should be given to our president (whether I voted for him or not). Well that’s my comments.
E-mail No. 5
I do not think she should have been arrested. Booted out of the event, yes, but not arrested unless she really made some sort of public disturbance or was a direct threat to any of the politicians there. She definitely should have been ceremoniously escorted out of the event, regardless of who invited her!
E-mail No. 6
Just a couple of comments: On the subject of Ms. Cindy, I am curious as to why she was given an invitation to an event where Pres. Bush would be speaking. Were they having a "senior moment?" Of course she would have taken any opportunity to make a scene since that's what she's all about. I rather think she was expecting to be arrested or detained because it makes a statement and I really think this lady needs some serious therapy and grief counseling. Give me a break. Secondly, did Mr. Entwistle really call his in-laws and feign amnesia saying he didn't remember flying to England? Give me another break. It's only a matter of time for that man. Thanks for the great job you do.
E-mail No. 7
As a Chicago Bear fan I hope Brett is serious about retirement. We respect the man but are tired of getting our butts kicked every year. (This year the exception ). I bet Chicago would throw him a retirement party.
E-mail No. 8
In your last blog you asked about what we thought about Mrs. Sheehan. According to the Constitution of the United States — which all are supposed to uphold — I thought there was freedom of speech. That freedom of speech must just be limited to just certain areas? I consider the shirt Mrs. Sheehan wore, freedom of speech and rights. Evidently, where she wore it, the Constitution is not in effect fully. I don't think she was wrong to wear it, if she was going according to the Constitution concerning freedom of speech.
E-mail No. 9
Cindy Sheehan has a right to do the ridiculous things that she does. I don't agree with her or understand her actions. I'm glad she was thrown out of the State of the Union speech. I feel that if the media would ignore her, she would lose her backing and quit what she's doing. The media is helping her by reporting her actions. I missed your blog on Tuesday but figured you had a day off.
E-mail No. 10
Quick questions: Do you know if Rachel Entwistle had her own car? And was it in the garage? Or, did the husband take the only car to the airport and leave her and the baby without transportation?
Thank you and best wishes,
Deerfield Beach, FL
ANSWER: Great question...
E-mail No. 11
Please amend your posting for contacting American GI's to www.anysoldier.com/wheretosend/ otherwise you end up at the recruiting page. Keep up the good work.
E-mail No. 12 — This next e-mail refers to the term "person of interest" which I hate to use — it is like "suspect light":
Yes, thanks to both of you for dropping that ridiculous "person of interest" stuff and using the proper word "suspect" when discussing Entwistle!
Beverly E. Fowler
E-mail No. 13
Regarding the man lost at sea coming from the Bahamas. A GPS plotter leaves a track if that feature is turned on. The track can also be deleted at any time by the boat operator or anybody that is familiar with the GPS plotter controls. It simply involves pressing a couple of buttons. Deleting your track is a common thing to do and the fact that the track is deleted probably is not significant. I hope this helps you.
Capt. Pete Hoogs
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