• Remembering Jill's Interpreter: Staff writer Howard LaFranchi worked in Baghdad for two weeks in December with Jill Carroll's interpreter, Allan Enwiya, when Jill was reporting on the US military operation in western Iraq. "The last assignment Allan and I did together was a story about reconstruction efforts in Sadr City," says Howard. ("Racket of rebuilding fills Sadr City as gunfire quiets," Dec. 20)
"This is a Shiite-dominated area, and I had worked with a Shiite Muslim interpreter. So, I told Allan - a Christian - that for safety reasons, it might be better if I used the other interpreter on this assignment. He insisted it would be OK for him to take the job.
"We tried to get clearance from one of the clerics who followed Moqtada al Sadr before going into Sadr City. But we couldn't find anyone," says Howard. "I just wanted to talk to some ordinary Iraqis. We came up with a plan to work the edge of Sadr City, so if anything happened it would be easy to get out. We parked the car pointed in the direction of a clear getaway. And we reviewed our safety protocols, including staying no more than 10 minutes in one place.
Howard says that Allan was a bit nervous, but game. They visited three different businesses - a small appliance shop, an outfit that rented chairs and dishes, and a tire repair shop. "We'd ask to talk and quickly go inside so as not to be seen on the street. Each time, Allan quickly became engaged. I had to remind him that it was time to leave.
"Just as in his music shop, his love of conversation and people and the story took over. It was those same qualities that made him so effective as an interpreter," says Howard.
David Clark Scott