Thursday, December 14, 2006

Empty Journalist Moments

There are crap moments on every job and yesterday I had several. Unfotunately, there will probably be more.

The first time was years ago while working as a television producer covering the aftermath of a suicide bombing. A camera crew and I went to a man's house to interview him. He and his wife had recently married and his adoption of her children had just finalized. We showed up a few hours prior to her funeral. His first wife had also been killed by a terrororist.

The man was in shock and I could not bring myself to ask him anything. I sat in silence. Realizing I was at a loss, my colleague the cameraman stepped in with questions in my stead.

After all, there really is nothing you can ask someone in that situation.

Yesterday I sat with a group of Rwandan survivors of the 1994 genocide who are currently in Israel. One, Jean-Pierre, agreed to tell his story.

Speaking quietly through a Kinya-Rwandan translator, he described hiding in bushes and watching Hutu militia men machete family members and toss grenades into surrounding bushes where other children were hiding. I lowered my head, gulped backed tears and pinched myself into not crying. Jean-Pierre lost both parents and four siblings.

When he finished telling his story, I said "thank you very much" with warmth that felt hollow. Thanks for sharing your personal hell. How odd, when you think of it.

During a college internship at a local news station in the U.S., an anchor once shared in confidence that whenever he was sent out to interview surviving family members, he would sit in the car outside the house, phone the executive producer and relay: "Nobody's home".

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