The Toll Of Covering Conflict

Award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington (right) known for his work in war zones, died Wednesday in the Libyan city of Misrata when he was hit by a mortar round. He is pictured here with Sebastian Junger, his co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for the best-documentary Oscar this year. i i

hide captionAward-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington (right) known for his work in war zones, died Wednesday in the Libyan city of Misrata when he was hit by a mortar round. He is pictured here with Sebastian Junger, his co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for the best-documentary Oscar this year.

Tim Hetherington
Award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington (right) known for his work in war zones, died Wednesday in the Libyan city of Misrata when he was hit by a mortar round. He is pictured here with Sebastian Junger, his co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for the best-documentary Oscar this year.

Award-winning photojournalist Tim Hetherington (right) known for his work in war zones, died Wednesday in the Libyan city of Misrata when he was hit by a mortar round. He is pictured here with Sebastian Junger, his co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for the best-documentary Oscar this year.

Tim Hetherington

Joao Silva. Lynsey Addario. Tyler Hicks. Tim Hetherington. Chris Hondros: the names of photojournalists grievously wounded, kidnapped or killed in the line of duty since October 2010. The names and casualties of journalists harmed during conflicts seem to be mounting, leaving many of us who knew them or who have worked with them or - even those a few steps more removed - feeling a bit more vulnerable.

Nearly all journalists in conflict areas, or areas of disaster, take risks. Photojournalists, I think, are the biggest risk-takers for the cause because they must be more proximate, and the lens attracts attention.

If you knew the cause would take a limb or your life, or leave you beaten or raped, would you do it?

  • Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger jointly directed, filmed and produced the film Restrepo from June 2007 to January 2010. In this image, Specialist Misha Pemble-Belkin (left) and fellow soldiers from Battle Company, 173rd US Airborne, are seen during a firefight at Outpost Restrepo during combat in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.
    Hide caption
    Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger jointly directed, filmed and produced the film Restrepo from June 2007 to January 2010. In this image, Specialist Misha Pemble-Belkin (left) and fellow soldiers from Battle Company, 173rd US Airborne, are seen during a firefight at Outpost Restrepo during combat in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • A soldier takes cover from the dust being generated by an incoming Chinook helicopter delivering supplies to the Restrepo base. The image is from Hetherington's book Infidel.
    Hide caption
    A soldier takes cover from the dust being generated by an incoming Chinook helicopter delivering supplies to the Restrepo base. The image is from Hetherington's book Infidel.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008. This was part of Hetherington's series on sleeping soldiers.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008. This was part of Hetherington's series on sleeping soldiers.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    Hide caption
    An image from Hetherington's book Infidel which was taken while he was embedded with writer Sebastian Junger in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in 2008.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington
  • Clothes hang out to dry as rain clouds gather over the Restrepo bunker high up on the edges of the Korengal Valley.
    Hide caption
    Clothes hang out to dry as rain clouds gather over the Restrepo bunker high up on the edges of the Korengal Valley.
    All photos by Tim Hetherington

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Phil Robertson, a New York based writer, has been close to Chris Hondros since they covered Afghanistan together beginning in 2002. As he told me today, "Conflict is a meat grinder and it destroys people's lives. We've seen way, way too many people get killed or injured, but this is OUR part of the war. It makes me realize more and more what the local civilians go through and how they feel."

I agree. And not only them, but the many local journalists who work for foreign organizations – like NPR. War is a terrible, uncertain, lethal condition. There will be other Misratas and Fallujahs and Korengal Valleys. I think the legacy, the honor, is to remember the people who put faces and feelings and emotions in front of us from those places, and reflect that there have always been stories, songs, and images of war and disaster. Perhaps their details blend over time, but we would not have the details except for those brave enough to gather them.

Photojournalist Chris Hondros poses with a a former Liberian government soldier, at his home in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2005. Hondros' picture of Duo jumping into the air in exultation during a battle with rebel forces in 2003 was distributed around the world. Hondros was killed April 20 in Misrata, Libya.

hide captionPhotojournalist Chris Hondros poses with a a former Liberian government soldier, at his home in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2005. Hondros' picture of Duo jumping into the air in exultation during a battle with rebel forces in 2003 was distributed around the world. Hondros was killed April 20 in Misrata, Libya.

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Robertson is writing a book at home now, in New York. He's the father of a toddler. But he has certainly taken risks and is thinking of Chris Hondros today. They shared rides in Afghanistan and a terrifying open-air truck ride in Fallujah.

And he and Hondros shared another ride. "He drove my wife and me and our new baby home from the hospital the day after our daughter, Zaina, was born in 2009," he said. "We were together on the most terrifying and beautiful days I have ever known."

Jacki Lyden is a correspondent and host for NPR.

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