I love sharing stories, but I’m not a writer. I usually tell stories with my photographs or orally. Nonetheless, here are a few stories dealing with things that happened behind my camera. It was hard to choose just a few when I can think of thousands of amazing moments I have shared with my Sun family. (Trying to write this has helped me understand the importance of a good word editor.)
❂ I fell out of a Black Hawk helicopter in the middle of a grain field in Iraq. I was trying to get images of our military picking up an Iraqi boy who had been shot by our guys for setting off an Improvised Explosive Device. I was not familiar with flying in an aircraft like this one and was warned immediately to stay in between the painted red cross on the side door when entering and exiting, or else I’d get my head chopped off by the rotor blades. I let that sink in.
Once we had taken off, a different soldier told me I would be jumping out a small side window, one that was clearly outside the painted red cross zone. I thought this guy was messing with me. In my time working with the military, I learned quickly that they like to play practical jokes. One lesson I learned: Never leave your camera lying around a base or you might find a photo of a soldier’s derriere amid your images of war — about which, later on, you can decide not to forewarn your photo editor and watch his face display shock and horror as the image pops up on his computer (priceless).
Once we landed, it wasn’t so much me falling 5 feet out of this window wearing some 35 pounds of gear, or me tripping another couple of times running through this field of grasses so high I could barely see the tops of the medics’ helmets, or praying no sniper bullets were awaiting us — none of that was so bad as me trying pathetically to get myself back IN through that tiny window. The helo took off as part of my ass and leg were still stuck out the window. But I had the photos and I had my head ... kinda.
❂ After a couple weeks in New Orleans covering Hurricane Katrina and living in my rented Pontiac Aztek (literally the biggest joke in the sport utility
vehicle world, and it was white), I had not bathed, had no bathroom, and had only eaten Clif Bars (which to this day I cannot go near) and MREs (the military meals ready to eat; the burritos were actually pretty good). Being in N.O. was like living in a post-apocalyptic world. But we are conditioned to keep going — looking for the stories, the people, never stopping. It’s too important to stop, and you love it. As well for fear that you’ll miss something big and your boss will yell at you with such force you’ll get third-degree burns.
Word got around that stores had opened back up in La Paz, about an hour outside the city. I wanted to go so badly but was terrified I would miss some breaking news. I sat on it for a day, and finally when I thought it was calm enough to go I raced to La Paz. I would get provisions and head straight back!