Wounded Lands

Watching the news the other day, flickering images of Kosovar independence, I couldn’t help but drift back to memories of an old friend of mine.

A seasoned cameraman with a major broadcast network, I had already lost track of all the warzones he’d blown through by the time he landed in that region. It was already tearing itself to bits, and his crew covered the turmoil out of an armored truck adorned with a latticework of bullet holes. Multiple calibers a standing reminder of the bounty on the press.

Close to the end of his tour there, on a beautiful day, he did something he knew was stupid. Leaving his flak jacket and helmet in the truck, he walked up a hillside to set up his equipment, silhouetted from behind by the sun. The camera was rolling as the sniper fired at him.

Watching the footage it captured, you see the silent valley he was filming. Then you hear the fugitive streak of something evil searing past. Then the image buffets stiffly, the sound of muffled panic and bodies scrambling to the dirt audible in the background.

That was everyday life in Kosovo.

He’s on the other side of that image. The bullet never touched him. But the pressure wave as it skimmed past his head was enough to leave him with permanent hearing damage. He was one of the lucky ones.

I’m glad my friend made it back.

But it seems that, even when they heal, some bones refuse to mend straight.