Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.
It was not properly a conversation, but an exchange between a terrorist and a policeman who had just caught him. I was there with my photographer as a young reporter, following a police operation against a terrorist cell in my city many years ago. We were at the hiding place of the terrorists. My photographer and I the only ones not related with the investigation. They were interrogating the arrested about how to open a small steel armoured door that they had found during the search, concealed below a sink. The officers suspected – and they were right – that behind that door there was a room, where the terrorists were keeping a huge arsenal with weapons, and explosives, and lots of documents about potential targets.
Basically what I heard was how the arrested began to say that he had nothing to do with that place, to finish talking about exactly how many people were using the hiding place, and admitting to know how to open the mysterious door. In fact was he who opened it, using a secret mechanism. Several policemen disappeared through the small door while others stayed with the terrorist and us in the main room.
The place was narrow and dark. There was too much people inside. So we ended waiting to see what would happen next, close to the arrested and the policeman who was guarding him. Then was when that man, who only minutes before seemed desperate, began to threaten us, till the policeman ordered him to shut up.
Soon after I decided I had enough of the terrorist and his threats and menacing stares, and crawled to go through the small door to the secret room. I found myself in a place full of automatic weapons, rocket launchers, rockets, explosives and clock bombs already prepared. We saw pictures of potential victims that had been followed by the cell, and a place ready to hide a kidnapped person. We stayed there till the search finished. Late at night we emerged from that dreadful place and went to the newsroom as fast as we could, to arrive in time for the deadline. My coworkers and the editor were waiting for us. I wrote fast and it was a great piece. I had been the only reporter in the police operation and only my photo reporter had the images.
The only problem was the fear because of the threat, and the fact that they called me as a witness against the terrorist cell during the trial two years after. I learned how irrational the fear is. That was a hard experience.