Sunday, October 20, 2013

Paul Conroy's "Under the Wire"

Paul Conroy, author of Under the Wire: Marie Colvin's Final Assignment, is a former British soldier. As a photographer and filmmaker whose work spans 15 years, he has reported on the conflicts in Iraq, Congo, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria.

Conroy applied the “Page 99 Test” to Under the Wire and reported the following:
It was with a fair degree of trepidation that I opened the book at page 99. What would I find, would it be a fair representation of Under The Wire? I had been determined when writing to avoid any form of padding, I knew I was safe on that front, wasn't I?

I rolled a cigarette, brewed a fresh coffee and started to read, a huge sigh of relief, I was in luck. My page 99 turned out to be a pivotal point in our journey into the dark heart of the conflict in Syria. Baba Amr, a small neighborhood in Homs, was our goal. Homs had been under siege for weeks and all our efforts to date had been focused upon gaining entry to the dying city.

We had rested for a few days in a small village, 10km outside of Homs. The Free Syrian Army were looking after us, it was they who would facilitate our entry into Homs and, as we waited listening to the constant sound of the artillery barrage, we got told of the plan to take us into Homs via a 3km storm drain. We would enter Homs by one of the Free Syrian Army's best kept secrets, a tunnel used to resupply medicine, food and weapons. It was the city's last remaining lifeline to the outside world.

Page 99 finds us on the first leg of the journey into the city. Crossing illegally into Syria from Lebanon and the journey to our safe house, had seemed perilous enough, but now we felt the real fear, a tangible, physical fear as we crossed the plowed and rubble strewn fields. We were being led past government troop positions which peppered the route into the tunnel. Sniper rounds cracked through the air, the explosions could now be felt and the ground rumbled as the huge shells and rockets pulverized Homs.

It was bad enough trekking through the no mans land towards a tunnel we hadn't seen, with people we barely knew, in the knowledge that our destination was the most dangerous place on earth at that point in time. At this point in the book the adrenaline fueled elixir of emotions was something that I had never felt before, so very alive -- yet so close to death.

With hindsight I can look back at page 99 I realize that it was a major turning point, not just in our journey, but in both our lives. Marie and I, hands clasped together, trudged on though the mud and slippery ditches, were were walking into a living nightmare, a nightmare from which only one of us would return alive.
© 2013 Paul Conroy
Learn more about Under the Wire, and follow Paul Conroy on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Under the Wire.

--Marshal Zeringue