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Sebastian Junger on Thursday paid tribute to his Restrepo co-director Tim Hetherington, who was killed Wednesday in Misrata, Libya.
Junger wrote a piece for VanityFair.com that was addressed directly to Hetherington.
“Tim, man, what can I say?” Junger began. “For the first few hours, the stories were confused enough that I could imagine maybe none of them were true, but they finally settled into one brief, brutal narrative: While covering rebel forces in the city of Misrata, Libya, you got hit by a piece of shrapnel and bled to death on the way to the clinic. You couldn’t have known this, but your fellow photographer Chris Hondros would die later that evening. I’m picturing you in the back of a pickup truck with your three wounded colleagues. There are young men with bandannas on their heads and guns in their hands and everyone is screaming and the driver is jamming his overloaded vehicle through the destroyed streets of that city, trying to get you all to the clinic in time. He didn’t.”
Junger wrote that he’d never heard of Misrata prior to Hetherington’s death, but he understood the pull of needing to visit a particular place and to be in the middle of events.
“You and I were always talking about risk because she was the beautiful woman we were both in love with, right?” Junger continued. “The one who made us feel the most special, the most alive? We were always trying to have one more dance with her without paying the price. All those quiet, huddled conversations we had in Afghanistan: Where to walk on the patrols, what to do if the outpost gets overrun, what kind of body armor to wear. You were so smart about it, too — so smart about it that I would actually tease you about being scared. Of course you were scared — you were terrified. We both were. We were terrified and we were in love, and in the end, you were the one she chose.”
Junger also argued that Hetherington’s death wasn’t in vain.
“You had a very specific vision for your work and for your life, and that vision included your death,” he wrote. “It didn’t have to, but that’s how it turned out. I’m so sorry, Tim. The conversation we could have had about this crazy stunt of yours! Christ, I would have yelled at you, but you know that. Getting mad was how we kept each other safe, how we kept the other from doing something stupid.”
He also praised Hetherington — who also worked as a photojournalist — for all the “terrible, ugly stories” that he “helped bring the world’s attention to.”
Before Hetherington’s last trip, he told Junger that he “wanted to make a film about the relationship between young men and violence. You had this idea that young men in combat act in ways that emulate images they’ve seen–movies, photographs — of other men in other wars, other battles. You had this idea of a feedback loop between the world of images and the world of men that continually reinforced and altered itself as one war inevitably replaced another in the long tragic grind of human affairs.”
While Junger wrote that the project might not have been worth dying for, he praised the idea as one of Hetherington’s “very best.”
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