We talk all about the technology of war here at DT but yesterday the world lost a pair of journalists who worked tirelessly to show us how that technology actually impacts peoples’ lives when it’s used for real.
Photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed by an RPG while covering the intense fighting between Libyan rebels defending the besieged city of Misurata and the Gadhafi forces who were shelling it indiscriminately. Both frequented some of the most miserable war zones on Earth, documenting the plight of all who were involved in the fighting. Hetherington was nominated for an Oscar for his work co-directing the film Restrepo, which has been hailed as one of the best films to try and capture the American soldier’s experience in Afghanistan.
Here’s The New York Times’ C.J. Chivers’ able tribute to the two from his personal site:
We’re numb here as the clock nears 4:30 a.m., and we’re not quite sure what to do. The deaths of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington on Tripoli Street still seem unreal. Bryan just walked off from the little space we’ve been huddled in, working. He’ll sleep soon, I hope. The work kept us busy enough to hold the worst of the feelings away. But now the work is almost done, and it will hit again with the same shock as the first word.
Before that happens, a few words should be typed.
Everyone who admires Chris and Tim, and everyone who loves them, has a debt of gratitude to Human Rights Watch and to the International Organization for Migration, who together, on extremely short notice, bent the world to get Chris’s and Tim’s remains on the Ionian Spirit, the evacuation vessel that by chance was briefly in Misurata port tonight. The vessel delayed its departure to take them aboard and begin their journeys out. Tim was brought down first, while Chris clung to life. When Chris died, there seemed no time to get him there. But HRW worked the phones, pleading by satellite call to the pier to have the ship held up again. They simultaneously urged one of Chris’s and Tim’s colleagues at the triage center to get Chris’s remains en route through the besieged city by ambulance, assessing — correctly as it turned out — that if they could honestly say that he was on his way that no captain would leave the pier.
They were right. Chris and Tim are at sea now, heading toward Benghazi, which means, in the indirect but solemn ways that the fallen travel from battlefields, that they are heading home.
One more thing must be said. None of this would have happened without Andre Liohn, the colleague in the triage tent mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Andre worked all afternoon and night to get word out about Chris and Tim, who are lost, and Mike and Guy, who are wounded. At the end, it was Andre who tended to the details at the hospital to put them in motion toward their families. Without Andre, Chris and Tim would still be in Misurata, in conditions I do not care to describe. Their friends and families would know little, and Chris and Tim would have been off-the-grid, and hard to reach, and the delays in their travel would have been painful for all who want them back. Andre was a savior tonight. He brought hope and humanity to a chaotic, devastating day.
If you want to know a little more of Andre, let me say this: When I spoke to him a short while ago, I asked if he has been wearing his flak jacket, which I had carried into Misurata for him last week. Tripoli Street is a hell of flying bullets and shrapnel, and he’s on it almost every day. No, he said, I am not wearing it. I asked why not. “I gave it to an ambulance driver,” he said.
These are the organizations and the people — HRW, IOM, Andre — who make it possible to imagine, on days like these, that we are people still, just as Chris and Tim did in the work that defined their lives.
The last NYT update, for tonite, is here.
This post is dedicated to everyone who’s died fighting to make some difference in the most awful of war zones; from soldiers fighting tyranny to medics, aid workers and journalists.
Here’s a slideshow of Hondros’ work, including pictures taken in Misurata just before he was killed.
Here’s Tim Hetherington’s last major video project, titled Diary.
Image above: Reuters.