Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

My trip to Trier

Many years ago, in the early nineties, my boss sent me to Eastern Germany for a week to visit an engine factory which was producing pieces for a car manufacturer of my community.

The reunification of Germany was very recent. And the big western firms had just landed there occupying the old factories they had lost when the country was divided after the WWII. The firm I was going to visit had just installed the new state-of-the-art chain of production inside the old building and had trained the workers to start the production immediately. Finally, little by little they were repairing the building.

It was really interesting to see How they were doing the transition from the communist way of working to the Western way. Very efficient. The main problem, they explain us, was that the big communist factories that had given jobs for thousands and thousands of workers with obsolete systems, now could improve the production with only the 30% of the workers, so the unemployment was high those years.

Our hosts booked for us rooms at a hotel near Trier, the home town of Karl Marx. It’s an area were there are almost no catholics. But we were going to be there in Sunday and I wanted to go to Mass. A young man who was our driver, promised me he would do everything possible to find me a church.

On Sunday, very early in the morning he came to pick me up, and drove me for half an hour to a place were there was a regular one-story house, very old in appearance, all outside covered by dark grey concrete, that seemed a family house instead of a church.

I had no inkling on what was going to find inside. The door was open, so I went in and the first thing I saw was an enormous organ with a man playing Bach beautifully and a space with the walls covered with child’s drawings, and like ten or twelve pews full of people in front of an altar.

I know no German, but I was deeply moved by the celebration because of the faith and the sense of community I could feel in those people. When we finished I had to wait for my driver . And I could see that the mass goers were looking at me quizzically. A woman left the group and approached me. She could speak a little English, and she asked me if I was going to stay with them, because the community wanted to welcome me. I explained to her that I was a Journalist and I was going to left next day and she seemed disappointed.

She explained me that they were a little community but very active, with a little Sunday school. That they were there for me in whatever I could need. I certainly felt welcomed and part of a community in which I only partook one Sunday, thanks to my kind driver.

Inkling

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism

Forlorn

curricula024Back in the 90s I went to Bosnia Herzegovina as a reporter during the Balkans war. I contacted with a local journalist hoping to obtain some good sources and information about what was going on in Mostar, taking advantage of my knowledge of the language. So I left the group of foreign correspondents who were working in the area with a translator, based in Medjugorje, where the Spanish troops had their headquarters.

The local journalist began giving me valuable information, but to my disgust and horror, very soon I could realize that he didn’t want to help me with the info, he only wanted to be alone with me to abuse me. I managed to escape unharmed, but I found myself alone in the unknown and I had to go back to my hotel in Medjugorje.

The road was completely dark and deserted and there was the danger of the possible attacks of the Serbian militias stationed on the mountains around. I was feeling forlorn and scared. I only wanted to hide in a safe place for the night.

I finally arrived to Medjugorje and found my hotel. Some of my colleagues had organized a dancing party. I was not in the mood. The war, the attempt against me, the scary trip to Medjugorje, had been too much for me. Besides I found scandalous organize a feast  then and there.

Next morning, very early, I went to the church of the village were they say there are apparitions of the Virgin Mary and miracles. I attended Mass and gave thanks to God to have saved me the day before.

Forlorn

Fernando

There was a living legend in my newsroom. A seasoned coworker who had lost his right arm in an accident during her youth, but was able to write fast enough with his left hand. He had a vast culture and he had among others a very popular column about music, his passion.

He was known among us because he had answers for everything . His memory and his encyclopedic knowledge was impressive. Before the times of Wikipedia and google, when we needed some data, we asked him because it was faster than go to check in a book or an encyclopedia. Sometimes my coworkers used to asked him difficult questions just to try him. In my 27 years working besides him I never caught him in a fault.

Only once, he didn’t know the answer to the question a journalist made him. But he sure knew where to find the answer in a few seconds. Even when the Internet was the king of the information, we used to check with him. He was fast, reliable, and human.

Bright, with a peculiar sense of humor. Resorting to him you would take back an answer and a smile or a laugh. Fernando (FPO) never disappointed us. Only when he got ill too soon and passed away. The companion and friend left us, The legend remain

Legend

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism

The field of certainty

As a reporter I had to move myself in the field of certainty, to be able to report about true news and don’t defraud my readers with a dubious story not enough contrasted. I used to check twice or more times every fact before publishing it.

I had a source, when I was a reporter in courts, that used to call me “sureolga” because of the many times I used to call him to check facts and get clarifications about the trials and the investigations going on. I knew that my way of working was a little slower than the others who just told the story as it happened without any further checking, but I couldn’t help myself.

Even though my bosses wanted more speed to finish the edition before ten in the evening with an appealing headline.

I knew that the fame of the people involved was at stake and that’s not a child’s game. I always thought that’s better write a good and complete news than have a fast but dubious one, and have to rectify next day.

I’m proud to say that in my years of reporter in courts I never had to rectify a single news I had written. And that’s not easy.

Dubious

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

Disturbing Moonless Nights

As a reporter I had to report about a shooting between policemen and terrorists that took place in a natural landscape of great beauty, a narrow gorge formed by a river.

Apparently, four terrorists were making plans for an attack while spending the day by the river, when they were intercepted by the police by chance.In the shooting a policeman died and another was wounded. The terrorists fled along the riverbank and disappeared into the vegetation.

The river is not practicable to swim because it has dangerous swirls and very deep pits and the only accesses to the gorge are the ends of the old railway tunnel wich runs well above the river bed. The police closed the two ends, as soon as the shooting occurred, so that the terrorists had no way of getting out of there.

And the manhunt began with the special forces using choppers in the air and dogs on the ground. The moonless night fell, black as tar. There was no trace of the terrorists. At dawn, one of them, badly wounded in the head, surrendered to the special forces that were combing the area and took them to where the others were at the river’s edge. they were dead. They had decided to commit suicide before being captured. He had tried to commit suicide but he had missed the shot. It was a pretty mysterious how the police didn’t hear the shots while combing the place.

I was horrified by everything that was happening. I had been the first journalist on the scene with my photographer and I was there when the terrorists were still on the run. Pretty dangerous despite we were going everywhere with the police.

The next night, a neighbour from the town closest to the place called my newsroom saying that shots had been heard again in the gorge. The terrorists were already dead. The special forces gone. ¿what could possibly had happened? My boss sent me to investigate.

I was very young and was in charge of another journalist even younger than me. We went with a beginner photographer. We arrived at the gorge and again we found ourselves with a dark and moonless night. But this time was scarier because we were completely alone. No police, no other journalists. no living soul.

We asked in the village and nobody had heard anything. When we arrived with my little Panda car at the black entrance of the tunnel I knew that there was no possibility of turning around to leave in one mile, and I felt responsible for the other two who were with me. So I decided to go around to the exit of the tunnel to see what we could find there.

Everything was dark and silent and again nobody had heard anything. We went a little further to the police station to which the dead and wounded policeman belonged to speak with their pals and they confirmed that everything was quiet. So we went back to the newsroom with nothing to report other than an update about the health of the wounded police officer, but at least we were safe and sound.

Black

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

The mysterious tape

Once, my boss sent me to make an interview to a scientist who had done some research in a very complicated and highly specific area of the bio chemistry for his PhD. The headline of his thesis was completely incomprehensible. The whole thing certainly might be interesting for the scientist community but very difficult to explain for the general public. But the scientist, a young man, was the nephew of a good friend of my boss, so his study had to become news in my newspaper no matter what.

When I asked him for an interview, he was surprised. He couldn’t understand why a journalist of a local newspaper could have any interest in his work. I asked him to explain me what was he doing in his lab as if I were (as I actually was) a completely ignorant about the matter.

I put my recorder in front of him and began to ask questions and take notes. He started to tell me about technical terms incomprehensible for me. He didn’t know what “say it in plain English” meant. There was no way to make him touch ground. I tried my best, but, when I went back to the newsroom I only had some chaotic notes and a tape (it was before the digital era) with 45 minutes of a recorded conversation in which I had placed all my hopes.

I rewinded the tape, I pressed the play button of my tape recorder to listen to the interview and mysteriously, all the conversation sounded backwards. Yes. Our voices were there talking, but it was like we were swallowing each word. It was impossible to understand a single one of them.

In all my life as a reporter never had happened to me something like that. I’ve never had found an explanation to such a strange behavior of the tape. It never happened before, never after. I asked technicians an other journalists, and nobody could give me an explanation. Of course, without the recording I couldn’t write the interview.

In the picture, me and my tape recorder in another interview different that the one described in this post.

Mystery

Posted in daily prompt, Journalism, Memories

Surreal

As a reporter I witnessed a police operation against a violent terrorist cell in my city, and two years after, I was called to take the stand as a witness during the trial against the terrorists. They promised me total discretion and that my name would not be disclosed.

I had to go to Madrid because the crimes related to terrorism are competence of a National High Tribunal. Once there, we, the witnesses, were waiting for the beginning of the trial, when a bus with supporters of the terrorists coming from my city arrived. The clerks and the security guards wanted that we were called by our names publicly in front of all those people who were looking at us as the enemy. Finally, talking with the security guards, we entered the building thru another door.

While I was waiting for my turn to take the stand I was searched thoroughly by a police woman, like if I was a criminal instead of a witness. Then, when my turn finally arrived, I entered the courtroom, and I had to stand next to an armored glass cage where the accused were. One of them had threatened me to death two years before when the police operation was taking place. I looked at them. They were laughing at me.

The first thing the judge said was ask me about my name and surname and repeat them aloud several times, because my surname is not very easy to pronounce for a Spaniard. Next he said aloud my address. So, that was the total discretion they promised me. The alleged terrorists in the cage were laughing loud, apparently having a great time. (They explained afterwards to me that it is a tactic of them to intimidate the witnesses).

To my surprise, the District Attorney didn’t know what to ask me. He didn’t know I was a journalist and that I had written everything I’ve seen in my newspaper. He didn’t know that I witnessed how one of the suspects opened the door of a hiding place where there was a large cache of weapons… I couldn’t believe it.

Finally, I finished answering questions and was dismissed. When all that was over, I wanted to refresh my mind and I decided to go to visit some museums in Madrid.

I went to El Prado, and when I was inside, suddenly there was an alarm and we were all evicted by bomb warning. I went to the Thyssen Museum, and it happened again.

So I decided to take a walk far away from the courthouse and wait calmly for the hour of my trip back home. Surreal
Surreal