Reporters on the Job

Banda Aceh Beat: Staff writer Dan Wood knew life would be difficult covering the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in human history. But the tropical elements and logistics of working in Sumatra were a constant challenge.

Besides sweltering heat, mosquitoes, and impassable roads, there were torrential rains daily from 2-4 p.m., leaving bumper-high flash floods and 8-inch-deep mud. Several large earthquake aftershocks shook the farmhouse where he and photographer Andy Nelson rented a spot to sleep on the floor. Dan often worked until after midnight to communicate with editors via a cantankerous satellite phone. Each day began at 5 a.m. with the call to prayer, just out side his window.

Electricity came and went from those portions of the city that were not hit by the tsunami, often creating additional confusion for the scores of aid organizations camping out in tents - those that weren't blown down.

"Of course, I met each challenge with elan, equanimity, and the poise of Gen. Chuck Yeager," says Dan dryly. "My biographer will put this assignment in the Job/Jonah chapter."

But the short, uncomfortable nights, and malfunctioning equipment were put into perspective by the survivors who lived there.

"One man I interviewed was sorting through the debris of his house. He had just three boards in his hand and planned to rebuild, even though he had no place to take those three boards. And next door they were still removing the bodies of his neighbors. My petty complaints evaporated. (page 1)."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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