Two photographers died here today
I had first met Tim Hetherington in Ajdabiya, nine days previously. An incredibly respected photographer, that day in the desert he was affable and personable. He was set apart from the other photographers that day, who were there for “the news”; he was doing his own thing, and doing it well.
In Misrata that day, he was a league apart. As we rushed into a burning building, bullets hitting the wall behind me, unbeknownst to me, Tim was already a floor ahead.
As I ran out of the building with the scattering rebels into the street, I caught sight of Tim climbing out of a a shell hole in the wall of the first floor. He was at the front.
I had already committed to leaving Misrata that day, and so this day I clocked off early from the action. It was as I reached the port that I got word that a photographer had been killed in mortar fire in the city, and that photographer was Tim.
Chris Hondros was admitted to the hospital with a severe head wound at the same time. “He is alive, but he will die” a hysterical voice crackled over the satellite phone. As the boat was ready to sail that night, he passed away.
The head of mission from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) did a laudable job in holding the boat, ensuring that their bodies could make the first leg of a very difficult journey of repatriation.
Probably the two most experienced photographers in Misrata were killed that day, setting in motion a large amount of soul-searching amid the international journalistic community. For me, in the immediacy of it all, I was questioning whether I could do this again. Having been with those guys less than three hours previously, questions of “what if” ran through my head, and rather selfishly, “that could have been me”.
It was a solemn sail onboard the ship charted by IOM that night, carrying Tim & Chris’ bodies back to Benghazi, along with over a thousand people, stranded and injured in Misrata.
To those who knew Chris and Tim, and to their family, my sincerest condolences. But from what I witnessed that day, and from what I known of them, they were pursuing what impassioned them. They were at the forefront of it all, and at the top of their game.