In these first hours since word came of what happened to our CBS News colleagues in Baghdad, memories rush in and linger.
Paul Douglas and James Brolan were not your average pros. They were among the best in the world at what they did, and among the bravest. Kimberly Dozier still is, as she fights for life. They proved their mettle and their professionalism time after time, in one dangerous dateline after another.
Paul was a tall, strapping Brit of African heritage, a great bear of a man with a smile as wide as the Thames. He looked like an athlete, and moved like one. He had the broad shoulders and thick legs of an American football tight-end or British rugby lineman. But he was quick and agile, and could (and often did) run fast for long distances carrying heavy equipment.
He started with CBS News in London as a sound technician — a soundman, in the parlance of the craft. I remember once back in the early-to-mid 1990s when he was working sound as part of a three-man team — cameraman, soundman, correspondent-anchor. We were in the hellhole that was Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia.
On the outskirts of the city, we had made our way through a maze of trenches, then through dense woods and finally to an overlook to record some heavy fighting. On the way back in, an opening along the backside of the hill, we heard the eerie, slight "woosh" of an arching, incoming shell.
We stopped, dropped and rolled trying for cover. There was none. The incoming ordnance hit the ground right in the midst of us, within a few feet of us. It hit with a thud and a sizzling, fizzling sound. Paul, with his sound gear still hanging on his neck and chest, rolled over and tried to cover me with his body as the weapon sizzled. Lucky for all of us, it never exploded. For whatever reason, it turned out to be a dud.
We didn't stick around to find out why. Back at our partially bombed-out old downtown hotel, Paul and I shared an adult beverage and talked about what had happened. I asked him why he had done it.
"Don't exactly know," he said with a smile. "Except ... well, you know, there's a bond. In this kind of place, in this line of work, there's a bond. We look after one another, we cover for each other."
Paul already had a reputation of being one of the best soundmen anywhere in television news. He was a whiz with anything and everything electronic. He was tough, durable, courageous and strong. (Cameramen always like strong soundmen, the better to carry more equipment!) He was also very intelligent and a quick learner.
One of the things he wanted to learn was how to be a cameraman. Not just any cameraman — he wanted to be a staff cameraman for CBS News and he wanted to be the best. He watched, read and practiced. And he made it.
During the years in Afghanistan and Iraq and many other places, Paul nurtured "the bond" — he did with me and with every other person with whom he worked. Not just in London, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan and Rwanda. When it came to cameramen, Paul was "The Man," the "go-to guy."
He loved to cook and was good — very good — at it. In Baghdad, in the wee hours after the last CBS Evening News feed, he would take whatever was available and make a sumptuous meal of it. He also often cooked breakfast and lunch for the whole bureau. In the countryside combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, with only a tiny "sterno" field stove to work with, he'd whip up something hot and filling.
Back in England, he had a motorcycle and loved to ride it back and forth to the bureau. He had restored an old Bentley car. How he loved to drive it through the streets of London!
He loved his family and talked about them often, on long plane rides and in the shanks of evening.
He was a gentle man, and a gentleman.
Writing of death in "Death Be Not Proud," John Donne said, "... and soonest our best men with thee do go." So it is now with our beloved Paul. His body is gone, but he is among us still in memory, a nurturer of "the bond."
About James Brolan I know less. But I knew him and know how good he was. As a freelancer he was highly regarded and respected throughout the industry. Among CBS people, he was especially respected for his willingness to "take his turns" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He was also liked for his sunny personality, and his ability as a guitar player. Late at night and on the road, he livened and lightened everybody's loads with exceptional, heartfelt guitar playing.
Bureau Chief Larry Doyle once opined to him, "Brolan, with that guitar you are amazing!" Brolan responded: "You ought to hear my son. He's even better." James' son was a special pride — as was all of his family.