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Phantom Blooper
01-16-07, 08:29 PM
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

<!-- Begin .post -->By ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Published: January 16, 2007

I USED to think that being a war correspondent was one of the most difficult jobs in TV journalism. It is, without a doubt, the most dangerous one.
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John Zito/Court TV

Ashleigh Banfield on assignment in Tehran. She is now a co-anchor on Court TV News.

Before I flew to Islamabad in September 2001 to cover the American war on terror, the president of NBC News warned me about the perils of covering a conflict. “This is one of the most refused assignments in the history of NBC News,” he said.

As a precaution, and in concert with no fewer than three other executives, we agreed it would be a good idea to tone down my blond highlights to avoid standing out.

But it was the airline I credit for going native. After my luggage disappeared en route, I visited a local store and bought scarves and the traditional dresses called Salwar-kameez. Noting the Pakistani soldiers barricading our hotel, I felt much safer blending in with the locals, and after a while other Western reporters — particularly women — began to do the same thing.

Clothing wasn’t the only thing not to be taken for granted. So was sleep. I have slept in cars on my way to interviews. I’ve fallen asleep underneath the camera, between all-night live shots. I even took a nap on the sofa in the office of former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres. It was rather embarrassing when he walked in, woke me up and told me it was time to do the interview.

Perhaps the worst, and most uncomfortable, place I have ever fallen asleep was in a parking lot in Beirut. I was working on a story about the United States Marine barracks that were bombed in 1983 during the Lebanese civil war. The authorities had decided to level the barracks and pave over the area, leaving it a nondescript parking lot. There is no reference to the 241 marines who were killed there.

When we arrived, the police barred us from rolling until they had verified our official permission. After a 12-hour flight and a lot of waiting, I was so exhausted I simply laid my head on the concrete and fell asleep. No blanket, no pillow, no pride. I woke up to the police clearing us out. They refused to let us get the pictures.

But last year, I discovered that being a war correspondent is not the most difficult job on earth. Traveling with a 12-pound baby is.

Just recently I was on my way from New York to Fort Myers, Fla., carrying a diaper bag, a stroller, a car seat, a bag filled with toys, bottles and formula and my now 1-year-old son, Fischer. At the checkpoint, an agent ordered me to disassemble the stroller and put it through the X-ray machine. That proved to be virtually impossible while holding my son.

“Could you please hold him for me?” I asked. “I can’t break down the stroller without your help.”

The agent shook his head. “No, ma’am.”

“It’s either that, or we put my son through the X-ray machine.”

Seeing the absurdity of the situation, the agent grinned and held Fischer for me. If he could navigate a baby through airport security, he may have a future as a war correspondent.

By Ashleigh Banfield, as told to Christopher Elliott. E-Mail: elliott@nytimes.com.

greensideout
01-16-07, 09:30 PM
Quote; "There is no reference to the 241 Marines who were killed there".


That statement really gives one pause, a time of remorse, a gut wrenching feeling.

May they rest in peace. Never forgotten!