When we left Anderson last week, he was broadcasting from Larnaca, Cyprus and hoping to make his way to Lebanon to report on the conflict from another point of view. (If you missed last week's post, here's the link.)
On Thursday, July 20th, Anderson anchored 360 from Beirut and blogged about his trip from Cyprus to Beirut ~
Hitching a chopper ride to Beirut
Beirut. That's where I'm heading now.
After nearly a week of covering this conflict from all over northern Israel and Cyprus, I'm finally about to take off for Beirut. Literally. My team and I tried over the weekend to cross into Lebanon from Jordan, but Syria wouldn't let us in. Now we're shooting a story about the U.S. air bridge that has been ferrying Americans out of Beirut since Sunday. Brigadier General Carl Jensen is in charge of the operation. He's a no-nonsense Marine determined to get the Americans out as quickly as possible. So far, they've taken about 1500 Americans by air and sea. On Thursday, they hope to get about 3000 more. My team and I are on a Marine Corps chopper. Ok, now we just took off. Within about a minute, we are over water and the rear hatch of the chopper is opened up. The sea is an extraordinary blue, and the air in the chopper rapidly cools off. The thud of the rotors is deafening, but it is great to be moving again after a few days in one place. We plan to stay in Beirut once we land, and put together a story about what the Marines are doing and how the evacuations are going. I'm not sure how long I will be in Beirut, but after three nights in Cyprus, it is good to be getting another angle on the story. Assuming everything goes as planned, we should land in about an hour. We will try to do our show from Beirut tonight, and then after that, who knows? This is a fast-moving story and we are trying to follow it wherever it goes.
Posted By Anderson Cooper: 3:37 AM ET
David Doss explained the ride further in his AC360 blog post ~
Business as usual in northern Beirut
Anderson and his team are writing and editing their pieces for tonight. I just spoke with our senior producer Charlie Moore, who is in Beirut with Anderson. Charlie's briefing adds more details on their trip into Beirut. In Larnaca, the U.S. Marine base they left from had a number of huge choppers and C-130 transports waiting on the tarmac. It's super hot in Cyprus. Marines catching-up on rest were sprawled in the islands of shade under the huge wings of the transports. The chopper flight from Larnaca to Beirut took them over the Mediterranean for about 50 minutes. Marine gunners in the front and tail of the chopper were on watch for threats from the sea. They flew fast and low. As they approached land, the Marines became even more vigilant as they watched for ground-fire. They were headed for the U.S. embassy, which is near the water in northern Beirut. The choppers had to come in fast and drop quickly onto the tarmac in the middle of the embassy compound. The embassy is heavily fortified. Inside, groups of Americans were waiting their turns for chopper rides out. More groups were waiting outside the embassy walls for rides too. But the scene was calm. No chaos. No desperate throngs waiting to evacuate. In the trip from the embassy to the CNN bureau in Beirut what Charlie and the team saw is not a city under siege. Charlie describes crowded streets, lots of cabs -- business as usual in this northern part of the city. But we understand the situation looks worse the further south one goes. Posted By David Doss, "360" Executive Producer: 12:51 PM ET
On Friday, July 21st , Producer Tommy Evans posted the following description of the 360 Team’s first night/day in Beirut to the AC360 blog ~
Call to prayer, silence, then 'boom'There was a moment last night, as we were preparing for the program, when it was so peaceful and quiet that I could have been convinced the war had ended. We were on a balcony overlooking downtown Beirut; the first call to prayer was sounding. We had been in Beirut for 20 hours and this was the first time I remember hearing the call. I am sure that's because it was the first time I was able to focus on it. We flew in yesterday morning on a Marine chopper, landing on the embassy grounds. Within minutes, before we had even moved away from the landing pad, the helicopter lifted off with a group of evacuees inside. Many of the Americans on board were far too young to really understand what was happening. Little boys seemed torn between fear and the excitement of getting to dress up in a military helmet and life vest. As we drove south from the embassy towards the center of the city, the cars in the northbound lane were bumper-to-bumper. Our driver explained that people were literally heading for the hills, the mountains in northern Lebanon, to wait out the war. It was the first time I'd heard someone wish the war would end soon and not sound like they believed it would. Beirut really is lovely, quite possibly the most beautiful city in the Middle East, even with very apparent and still open scars from this conflict, and the conflicts that have come before. People here always seem to be whispering conspiracy theories; some think that once all the foreigners leave, the real shelling will begin. It's a frightening thought if you've seen pictures of what has already been done to the Hezbollah stronghold in the southern suburbs. On the balcony last night, the illusion of peace ended a few minutes after the call to prayer, as the silence was smashed by a massive explosion to the south.
Posted By Thomas Evans, CNN Producer: 4:08 PM ET
Sunday, July 23rd ~
Anderson and his crew had a stange meeting with Hezbollah. Charlie Moore posted the details of their day in the following blog post ~
Our very strange day with Hezbollah
Hezbollah invited us to come see them again; it's the second time in as many days. Yesterday, Anderson, photographer Neil Hallsworth and I drove to the southern suburbs of Beirut and waited at a predetermined meeting spot. A few minutes passed, then an old, American-made sedan pulled up behind us. Two men jumped out of the car. Our fixer approached them and after an animated conversation, one of the Hezbollah men stuck his head in our car window and said in passable English, "We're very sorry to inconvenience you but there will be no tour today. There are Israeli drones overhead and it's not safe to be here. Please leave now." Those were easy orders to follow. Today, we were told Hezbollah was again willing to take our team into their neighborhood. Meet them at the same spot, they said, at 11 a.m. and don't be late. We weren't. We waited. Then waited some more, and what follows is a log of a very strange day with Hezbollah. Click here to link to Charlie's full post with all the details of their day.
On Monday, July 24th, Anderson and team left Beirut ~
Beirut, Lebanon (July 24, 2006) - Anderson Cooper from CNN along with other American citizens prepare to depart the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, enroute to Cyprus. (Not sure about the caption saying "enroute to Cyprus" as Anderson ended up reporting from Haifa, in Northern Israel on July 24, 2006. Perhaps his trip from Beirut to Haifa was via Cyprus?)
David Doss posted the following to the 360 blog, explaining the reason for Anderson's exit from Beirut ~
Trying to avoid becoming a target
A lot of you have asked us to discuss some of the logistical challenges of covering the fighting. The reality is that how and where to report this story is, at best, a case study of making decisions on the fly. Here's a download of where we are so far today: Over the weekend, Anderson and his team hoped to get to the Tyre area in southern Lebanon. As you know, this area was a site of intense Israeli targeting in recent days. So the calculus for us became: Even if we could get there safely, could we actually get back out? Another big issue: Could we actually get a broadcast signal out of the Tyre area? Among broadcasters there is a concern about how our small convoys of cars full of equipment and personnel look from the air. There is a risk Israelis (eyes in the sky: drones, satellites) could mistake them for a Hezbollah convoy headed closer to the border and within striking distance of Israel. So simply being on the road with several vehicles is a risk. Plus, when we fire up our broadcast signals it is unclear what we look like to Israeli military monitoring stations. If there are a number of broadcasters firing up signals from the same remote place, the hope is that the Israelis would identify it as media signals, and not Hezbollah rocket electronics, and thus avoid being a target. Other difficulties: With evacuations intensifying from south Lebanon and more and more bridges and roads getting hit, there is the very real chance our team could get stuck and unable to report and broadcast. It's a risk we did not want to take. We concluded, for now anyway, this was a good time for Anderson to move out of Beirut and to another part of the region. Much of last night and early this morning were spent sorting out the best place for Anderson to be tonight. At this writing, honestly, it's still a question mark.
Update, 5:20 ET: Looks like Anderson and team are going to broadcast from Haifa, Israel, tonight with series of packages and guests exploring Hezbollah, the large Christian population in Lebanon, and the most recent news from the frontlines. Posted By David Doss, "360" Executive Producer: 2:08 PM ET
Anderson anchored 360 live from Haifa, Israel ~
The broadcast included the following Reporter's Notebook ~
I keep thinking back to last year. In March 2005 we were here in Beirut. Pro-democracy demonstrations swept the country. A million Lebanese filled this square, calling for Syria to get out. There was so much hope here, so much optimism. A democracy was being born. Now Martyrs Square is empty. The future is unclear. When the fighting stops, this city, this country, these people have to decide what they want it to be, which direction to move toward. Right now it seems everything is just standing still.
Tuesday, July 25th ~
Anderson posted the following to the 360 blog ~
This is not another Katrina
A lot of times I wake up and have no idea where I am. The blinds are drawn, the room is nondescript. It happened again just a few minutes ago. I lay there, looking at the ceiling, trying to remember. A few seconds passed, then the sirens sounded. Haifa. If there are sirens, I must be in Haifa. It's easy to get confused. We've been traveling around a lot, trying to see this story from as many different angles as possible. We were in Beirut yesterday, then Haifa, and we're about to move again. We are heading back to the border with Lebanon to focus on Israeli military actions in southern Lebanon. Yesterday, I had the chance to talk with a lot of the U.S. Marines and State Department officials running the ongoing evacuation of Americans from Beirut. Every day this past week, Marine and Air Force choppers have been landing at the U.S. embassy and ferrying Americans home. They've moved more than a thousand people by air, more than ten thousand by ship. I know there was some criticism of the evacuation effort early on, with some Democrats comparing it to the response to Hurricane Katrina. But the truth is this week American forces have moved a huge number of people out, and they've done it under very difficult circumstances. Seeing the Marines and State Department people in action, up close, is inspiring. They are highly motivated and are working around the clock. They have been giving medical treatment to the sick, and I've watched them play with kids who are screaming with fear because of the deafening whirl of the helicopters. Now, it seems like the U.S. military will begin ferrying in humanitarian supplies. Some will no doubt be critical, saying that the United States is not doing more to stop the violence. That is certainly an understandable position. But I just wanted to take a moment and recognize the efforts that individual Marines and sailors and State Department folks have been making. We are quick to point out when our government fails; it's important to recognize when it works as well.
Posted By Anderson Cooper: 8:42 AM ET
I'll leave you for this week with Anderson's segment from Dispatches From The Edge on covering the conflict in Lebanon ~
Anderson's reporting from the Israel/Lebanon conflict in 2006 continues.... next week on ATA.
While doing some research for this post, I came across a couple of interesting blog posts and a photo of Anderson with Daniel Radcliffe taken after after watching the April 2nd performance in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,”~
First a blog post about an evacuation experience from a man who met Anderson/worked for the 360 Team in Cyprus ~
The Man with the Bad Leg
by Constantine Markides
Aside from writing the evacuation stories for the Cyprus Mail, I was also working for CNN with the Anderson Cooper 360 degrees crew for a few days as a “fixer”—the local go-to journalist for everything from translation and research to chauffeuring, lugging, and food delivery. International news crews run exorbitant tabs when they travel to other countries, so sleep does not pay. For them to squeeze four hours of sleep per 24 hours is a rare luxury; the norm is two or three. After several days at the port the pavement at the Larnaca port started to undulate. It was the first time I could say I was hallucinating from lack of sleep without lying.
Apparently two to three hours of sleep per night eventually catches up with even Anderson ~
A blog post by newsbusters.org on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 had praise for Anderson ~
CNN's Anderson Cooper Exposes Hezbollah's Media Manipulations
On Monday’s "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN’s Anderson Cooper related his visit to a Hezbollah-controlled section of Beirut where he was supposed to photograph certain damaged buildings, part of the terrorist group’s strategy of generating news stories about Lebanese civilian casualities caused by Israeli bombs. But instead of merely transmitting Hezbollah’s unverified and unverifiable claims to the outside world, Cooper — to his credit — exposed the efforts by Hezbollah to manipulate CNN and other Western reporters.
Perhaps Hezbollah and Gadhafi use the same PR firm?
In this photo released by Starpix, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, right, joins actor Daniel Radcliffe on stage after watching Radcliffe’s performance in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Saturday, April 2, 2011 in New York. Cooper’s recorded voice narrates the show.
(AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab)