I've been very closely following the dispatches of our friends and colleagues in Pakistan: Correspondents Ned Colt and Jim Maceda. Having done what they're doing now gives me great sympathy for how they are living and what they are witnessing. I hope it goes without saying that all of us routinely point out that we are mere visitors... reporters and observers... in a land where so many are gone, so many have lost so much and so many are sad. At least our folks have their health, families, homes, possessions and lives to return to.
Having said that, though, it's easy to envision so many aspects of their current trip: the smell, sound and vibrations of a long hop in a Chinook helicopter, the taste of the MREs (the military meals that become, in a disaster setting, one's sole source of nourishment... and we're glad to have them) and the sight of our London and New York-based technical wizards arriving to set up shop. I can easily visualize all of their faces, right there, in the rugged and awful context of where they have landed. They are the best in the world at what they do -- setting up a live TV signal from the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, using the contents of the equipment cases they carry -- and I am constantly in awe of their knowledge, talent and work ethic when serving with them in the field. It's hard work, tough duty and emotionally so draining.
Those of us who visited both Banda Aceh and New Orleans (as perverse as that sounds) in the space of the last year have been left with indelible images that often appear when we close our eyes at night. Ditto anyone who has visited a live-fire situation in Iraq or any other war zone. And as is the nature of our work, after bringing the story of a far-off (or not so far-off) tragedy to the viewers, we come home, where we are expected to seamlessly merge back into our normal, fortunate lives. In terms of the losses they continue to suffer, the people of South Asia yield to no one on earth.
But for our friends who are there recording their sad stories... there is great respect and empathy back home among co-workers watching their hard work. As a great man once said: "This is the business we have chosen." We leave these kinds of places wishing only that we could make better the plight of those we meet on the ground, and bring back those being mourned by the survivors whose lives are suddenly so empty.