Barbara Davidson faces her fear
It was 1999 and I was assigned to cover the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a special “Hidden Wars” section for the Dallas Morning News. Along with a reporter named Drucy, I travelled to the DRC to tell stories about the under-reported civil war there.
While we were in Goma, covering the rebel-held part of the country, I met with Drucy in our humid hotel room to discuss plans for the following day’s coverage. She said that we were going to travel in a heavily armoured convoy up a dormant volcano to remote villages with the rebel leader to recruit new fighters.
I said to myself: “NO WAY. The last time I was in a dicey situation overseas, covering the Bosnian war years earlier, I was held captive and threatened with being chopped up and sprinkled across a field where no one would be able to find my body.” Drucy quietly looked at me and told me a story about how her war-correspondent husband had been shot during the Romanian Revolution in 1989, and left for dead. He survived and decided to not go back to war reporting — something he loved — because of the emotional scars he carried.
I felt the same way after being detained. I felt I couldn’t cover the kinds of stories I dreamed of doing because of the fear and PTSD I carried over from what had happened to me in Bosnia. But Drucy was having none of it. She said that if I didn’t want to go with her the next day, she would bring a camera of her own and take the photos by herself. I looked at her and with a tiny smile said, “I hate you…I’ll see you in the morning.”
And so, she helped me get back to what I loved doing just by saying she would go without me. It was the clever push I needed to manage my fear and get back to the journalism I really wanted to be a part of — going to extreme parts of the world to tell stories of civilians suffering in war-torn countries. In that moment, I refused to allow my own fear to dictate the kinds of stories I would tell. I still travel with that fear, but in that moment, I knew that I would be the journalist that I dreamed of becoming.