Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My story in VICE

First things first, the editors at VICE wrote in a couple mistakes into the story after what was supposed to be the final edit. The title is not reflective toward the story whatsoever and the picture is not in anyway relevant. Futhermore, they held onto the story for nearly a month, though sometimes that happens and is inevitable.

I wasn't happy with all these things, but still it is hard to get regular work as a freelancer so I appreciate VICE running the story. Here are a couple excerpts and you can read the full story here:

The talks seemed civil at first till two armed men in body armor arrived and began shouting and pointing their rifles in the air. What had been quiet negotiations evolved into a shoving match between these men and the soldiers—and then, of course, came the gunfire.
I cannot say who shot first. Reports later said two soldiers were killed;  I saw a LAF soldier leap off an army jeep, as bullets barraged him and then watched the LAF take cover behind buildings as Assir’s men fired on from above—based off this knowledge and where the bullets hit the jeep, it seems Assir’s men were already in position when the shoving match began.
I rushed inside and took cover behind the counter as a stray bullet shattered KFC’s windows. Aside from the ten or so employees, there were a few young men in their late teens/early 20s, two mothers, and a few children. The oldest child was 11 years old.
Em Mohammad spun around and headed downhill in the reverse direction. As she drove down the winding road, her nerves started to set in, and the car picked up speed. We flew past a group of armed men who yelled at the car, “Turn off your lights!” In full panic mode, she obliged and pressed the gas pedal hard. We flew down the dark street. Oblivious to the two cars blocking the road, she barreled into them.
The next few moments are still blurry. I only remember the car stopping and blood running down my face. Seeing the two cars ahead, a deep fear set in—I checked to see if anyone was badly hurt and then jumped out of the car.
“Get back in!” yelled Mostafa.
I returned to the car. Em Mohammad tried to reverse but smashed into a wall instead. She pulled forward and went back into the two cars. She repeated this once more, and then I decided to exit the car for good.
From across the street, men motioned us over—Mostafa and his family decided to follow my lead. They left the car. We sprinted till we found a man in a balaclava—clearly one of Assir’s guys—sitting outside a house.
“Here, try to stop the bleeding with this,” he said to me, handing me a sweaty hat.
As the car started, the passengers—including the driver—began to pray. Hearing the driver leave his fate to God made me feel clueless, so I prayed too. I’m not sure what I said or if I just jumbled out a bunch of syllables at an attempt at forming English words, but I know an argument in the front seat interrupted my quasiprayer.
“Where do you want to go?” the driver asked.
“We want to go down to the Sea Road,” replied Mostafa.
“That won’t be possible,” the driver replied. “I’ve got a rifle in the car. What if the army stops me at a checkpoint?”
“Then what are we supposed to do?” asked Mostafa, his voice increasing in anxiety.
The driver suggested we find a friend’s building. He drove a bit further before stopping. “This is far as I go,” he said. “May God be with you.”
We exited the vehicle and then started to walk. I envisioned the two bullets that had hit the soldier earlier that day and worried I’d meet the same fate. I demanded to know where we would find safety.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Up ahead,” said Mostafa.
“Where up ahead?”
Mostafa pointed somewhere in the distance. “That building, there.”
Trying my best to keep cool, I said, “Describe it.”
He described the building, and then I ran ahead. Before I reached the building, an armed LAF soldier stopped me—we had just ran through the area where the two sides had exchanged gunfire hours earlier. I told the startled soldier that I wanted to take cover in the building.“
“Go! Go!” he said.
I reached the building and tried to open the door, but it was locked. Around this time, Mostafa surveyed the buttons for a name he recognized. “Just press all the buttons!” I yelled.
I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t want to bother people or if he thought they wouldn’t open the door because they were afraid of armed men entering, but he hesitated. “PRESS ALL THE BUTTONS!” I screamed frantically.