The muddy and torn correspondent crawls from broken half tract to exploded automobile, then finally makes his way to an abandoned building, it is dusk and the fighting has been raging most of the day in this southern Lebanese village. He rests and drinks water from a borrowed canteen. He wipes the dirt from his face and prays for a little relief from the constant danger.
The Israeli tanks had been firing on this village most of the day as I had been watching the assault from a hill a few miles away, I had to move to the low lands as the air strikes kept peppering my position since dawn; now that night was coming, I was hoping for a respite from the chaos and shelling. I feel like a man blessed that none of the half dozen snipers had succeeded in hitting me as I moved and I hid. I would love to call in my stories via satellite phone, but every time I fire up my handset, some electronic countermeasures unit detects the signal and they fire on me. I guess I will be quiet for now and wait until I get to Beirut before I file my reports. I watch the advancement of the Israeli army squads from the window of the ruins I occupy.
As he watches, his hiding space is compromised by a sniper who takes his chance at dropping his target. Zip, zip, the projectiles are followed by a distant crack, crack, the correspondent moves in time to avoid being killed by the snipers attack. He doesn't know who the sniper is, he just knows that one is out there, both sides had been using snipers this day, but they had not been successful at killing the newsman.
The green clad sniper reloads his magazine and looks again through his scope for his target. The target has vanished, nowhere to be seen, he continues to search the tortured buildings with the high-powered scope.
Rocket attacks ignite the night sky and illuminate the bare walls of the dusty roofless room. Boom after boom correspond to the tanks report as they fire on positions, which are suspected strong holds for the freedom fighters. The tanks growl as they rumble through the streets of this crushed southern village. There are so many strange sounds in this war you must learn to understand all of them for survival sake. The correspondent feels safe for a while and chances a little sleep before attempting his trip to Beirut and safety.
I could hear them before I could see them, the distinctive sound chopping at the air and the ripening night. There was more than one of them I couldn't tell exactly how many, maybe three. They where searching the rubble for militiamen and rocket launchers. The Israelis were well equipped they had the best weapons the world had to offer. These helicopters were no doubt the French Unger 780's. I chanced a peek at them in the subdued light. There were three of them as I had thought, all in a triangle formation. They were hunting, their searchlights blazing. I had to be careful their infrared cameras could spot me in an instant, and then I would be dead. I kept low, but the sounds of the beating blades grew gradually louder. Their search pattern was leading them to my location. Their high intensity searchlights washed ever thing with blue white brilliance, I felt exposed and vulnerable.
My fears overwhelmed me, the choppers were all around my crumbled building, I had been seen. They backed off to a safe distance I was confused.
The correspondents confusion subsided as the Unger 780s released the power of their Rail guns, blasting bits of brick and plaster, pulverizing the already ruined building, further reducing it to more rubble.
Chin, chin, chin… the sound of the high-speed projectiles was deafening. Our correspondent ran for the dilapidated stairway to hide from the chopping guns.
The pilots aboard the choppers searched through the thick dust and smoke for their elusive prey.
Chin, chin, chin… they kept blasting away at the buildings rotten walls. The pilots spoke to one another in Hebrew; repeatedly they circled their target. The correspondent had eluded their attacks as they flattened the building. Then, the Rail guns were silent.
The ringing in my ears would not stop, it turned into a buzzing, I had a deep cut on my filthy forehead, it stung from the sweat. My adrenalin level had peaked, I was cold, and I had the shakes. I was hungry, I was exhausted, and in need of medical attention, I needed respite from this nightmare. Crawling from the basement, my hiding place was dank and smelled of urine. I contacted the fresh air and took a deep breath. The choppers where now nowhere to be seen, being just a writer to this war was hellish enough, just imagine being a resident of this war torn village. I imagined living constantly under this threat.
I slept under a tree, which was protected from the war by devastated apartment buildings. The tree was healthy, dry, and safe from view, I slept an exhausted sleep.
A shaft of sun light cut through the broken buildings and settled upon the face of our correspondent. He twitched and waved his hand around his sleeping face in an attempt at dismissing an angry fly. He sat with a start, it was quiet, a slight breeze disturbed the solitary tree, it was very quiet. He sat up sensing the air; the smell of cordite and masonry was discernable. The rubble stunk.
I better get going before the shooting starts, don't know how long it will be silent. What day was it anyway?The correspondent moved off down a side street and found a bicycle up against the wall, the tires were good, and it worked fine. Quietly he rode out of the shattered Lebanese village and into the countryside. He made his way north, peace seemed to follow him this day.
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Mr. Thomas Emmon Pisano, an electronics-engineer-turned professional writer, serves as US correspondent for The Seoul Times. A New Jersey native he has lived in California. He has started his writing career in 2003 and has authored four books including “No Murder Too Small” and Big Crimes Small Miracles.”
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