There had been explosions and heavy gunfire throughout the night, and it seemed to be getting closer. I was exhausted after a week here in this war-zone, but I was not ready to leave. But I had work to finish in Nairobi; a boat was coming today, and I would have to leave on-board.
Part of me was glad that I would be leaving, despite feelings of “letting down” some of the people I had met here. I had been pushing my luck here. I had been to the front line almost every day, I had no flak jacket nor helmet, and I was pushing myself further each time.
As I packed up, ready to move to the port, I was told of heavy fighting around the bridge on Tripoli Street. The rebels had made large advances. I wanted more images. But “just one more time” was never the thing to say.
I was happy with several of my images from Misrata, but they lacked something. Robert Capa’s famous advice rang through my head:
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”
When I arrived at Tripoli Street, groups of rebels stood around, their sights trained on one building. They had pummelled the building, and were moving in to clear it. And I followed. “Get closer.”
On the staircase inside, a fire was blazing from a rocket propelled grenade. As rebels pushed through it, a shot rang out over my shoulder. I felt the plaster from the wall behind me hit me in the back. It wasn’t until several hours later that it struck me how close I was to being shot.
Running back down the staircase, a rebel looked panicked as he pointed his rifle at a doorway. As everybody spilled out onto the streets, shots rang out from inside the building. A wounded rebel was dragged out, put in the back of a pick-up and sped off to hospital. Moments later, everybody was running for cover as bullets sprayed at our feet.
At times, I envied the text reporters. I had worked with a couple throughout the week, and as the battles erupted, they would take cover in a doorway as the gunfire cracked through the streets. They could describe the situation from the relative safety of a concealed arch. I felt the need to edge closer, to fill my frame, to try and capture these moments. But it also afforded me a greater intimacy with the fighters, standing there with them, running with them. The envy was short lived.
Today, though, I have taken too many risks. Today was crazy. Today was stupid. Today was close.