It’s day four of my post-trip hibernation. Already, my reporting experience in Afghanistan feels like it happened a year ago. It would have been best to post my thoughts on the trip as they happened, but there was too much to detail and so little time, it wasn’t possible at the end of a 14-hour long day.
It’s safe to say that the moment I set foot in Kabul, I never fully exhaled or relaxed. Part of that is due to my job responsibility as a producer, the other is the simple fact that we were operating in a conflict zone. As the international community moves closer to a pullout deadline of 2014, the country is trying terribly hard to stand on its own, while battling their own internal struggle over power. The insurgents that continue to operate in the country move invisibly and strike at a moment’s notice. Just a few days into our stay, as we entered a traffic-heavy street during the morning rush hour, we heard a loud BOOM, followed by gunfire. Just a few blocks away, a suicide bomber on a bicycle peddled past the Ministry of Defense and exploded – killing seven innocent Afghanis who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The initial panic of the explosion was evident, from the anxious look on our fixer’s face, to the hurried text messages and phone calls our security driver began to make. Large SUVs of Afghan forces emerged from unmarked garages along the route and helicopters flew overhead. Most of the people around me stayed calm, in fact the people driving in traffic appeared not to notice – this sort of thing happens on a week-to-week basis. Slowly, as we got word of what happened, the reality started to set-in and a swelling panic began to build in my stomach. I had to physically pinch myself to prevent tears from pooling in my eyes…there is no crying in TV news…and if I expected anyone to take me seriously for the next ten days, I had to contain my emotions.
There were a couple of times I thought I might cry during this trip. Sometimes those tears were a result of sleep-deprivation, other times they were born from the beauty and simplicity of the people I met. As our plane departed Kabul and we lifted-off for our return home, I sat in a row by myself and took 30-seconds to let it all sink in. The quiet tears that skipped down my face were those of relief and disappointment: I have the good fortune to return home to a place where I can walk freely and without fear, but the people of Afghanistan – no matter how good and kind they are – will never have that sense of security in their lifetime.
A colleague of mine, who has operated in every hell-hole known to news organizations, told me that after trips like this you have to return home and let it all ‘roll off your back.’ If you sit and think too hard about it, you’ll drive yourself mad. There’s definitely truth to his advice, but it certainly makes me feel guilty and helpless. The best I can do is report what I saw and deliver it to viewers with accuracy and poignancy.
Our program about Afghanistan is set to air in late April…date TBA. The task of boiling-down a 10-day trip into 60 minutes begins now. There’s no crying in TV news and there’s no crying in the edit room either. I suspect that I’ll be ‘pinching’ myself a few more times before our air date.