War photographers are the bravest people I know. In many years of covering conflict, from Kashmir to Palestine to Iraq, I’ve had the honor to befriend and work with some of the finest, and bravest, of the breed. Few were in the league of Chris Hondros. I am heart-broken by the news that he and Tim Hetherington, another photographer, have been killed in Misratah, Libya.
Chris and I hung out at TIME’s Baghdad bureau, in a wide assortment of military bases, in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and on one especially memorable occasion, stuck in a small plane on the tarmac of the airport in Amman, Jordan. We were meant to be flying into Baghdad, and the flight was delayed over and over again by sandstorms. To kill time, Chris and I made a deal: He’d explain baseball to be, and I’d help him understand cricket. When he was about halfway through his disquisition on America’s favorite sport, another passenger chimed in to question his interpretation of some arcane rule. (At least, it seemed arcane to me.) Then another passenger interrupted, with a variation of his own. Pretty soon, half the plane was consumed in a heated discussion on the finer details of baseball rules.
The conversation never ended, and thereafter, whenever I saw Chris he reminded me that I owed him an explanation of cricket.
It became a running joke between us, but also served as a coping mechanism, a distraction from the misery we often confronted in our line of work. At a Baghdad hospital one sweltering summer’s day, we watched as several dozen dead and injured — victims of a suicide bombing — were unloaded from ambulances. There was blood everywhere, people were screaming in pain. Chris and I were overwhelmed. Then he took his tearing eyes away from his camera for a moment and muttered, “When we’re done here, can you show me how to do a googly?”
That, in turn, became our inside joke. Every time we met, one of us would simply say, “googly,” and then break out laughing.
All of us who’ve been fortunate to know Chris will miss his incredible talent, his bravery and his generosity. Most of all, I’ll miss that big guffaw, the sound of reassurance.
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