Memoirs of a War Reporter

My name is Adriana Aristizabal, I covered the war in Colombia between 1998 and 2004. It was one of the most dangerous and complex conflicts in history, and when the dust settled it left behind a fragmented generation to tell the story.

Women such as Elizabeth Jane Cochran, better known by her pen name Nellie Bly, who pioneered war reporting in the First World War, and Marlene Sanders, a war reporter in Vietnam and one of the early television journalists, inspired the generation of war reporters to which I belong.

In both the United States and Latin America, the roles of women in the professional sphere have been in a delicate balance with our roles as mothers. It has been a major challenge for all those women who have decided to venture into the career of journalism.

In an article published July 19, 2015, the New York Times quoted Marlene Sanders on one of her reflections about journalism and motherhood: “Never apologize for your work… you love what you do, and to love what you do is one of the finest gifts you can give your child.”

Both Bly and Sanders were representative of the best of journalism. They are an inspiration to many reporters, such as myself, who carry out our profession in high-risk areas.

After more than a decade since I left my post as war reporter, two major events occurred in 2016 that inspired me to write this book.  First, I watched closely as my country moved towards a peace process to end a sixty-year conflict.  Secondly, I experienced a traumatic life-threatening automobile accident that brought me to a sort of breaking point and recollection of life memories and reflections of all the experiences I witnessed during the war. 

Today, the peace process has the attention and interest of the global community.  This is an amazing story of hope and progress.  But peace comes at a price.  It occurred to me that the peace process takes center stage but I felt it is important to honor and remember the victims of this war, the families who lost loved ones, the war reporters who lost their lives and to educate the world about the pain of war plagued with fear, loss of life, and the trivialization of human life in the storm of terror and conflict. 

Why is it important?  There is a historical story that leads us to the current peace process that cannot be forgotten.  A historical story of the senseless death, torture, sorrow, and pain experienced by a country of innocent victims.  A story that was covered for years by dedicated journalists and reporters who risked their lives to bring the truth of this storm of war to the world.  At a time when we watch the horror of terrorism in the Middle East, particularly Syria, Iraq, Europe, and a growing frequency of terror in the U.S. Let this be a lesson for all nations that no matter the history of violence, terror, and horror, we must not ignore the pain and suffering of the innocent victims of war.  And, we must always believe that peace is always a possibility.