I...cried at work today. No, I didn’t break down behind the wheel, didn’t bawl my eyes out over a tricky edit, didn’t sob uncontrollably at the thought of another unjust deadline. But my eyes did emit liquid while squinting through the lens at the intimacies of others. It happened quick, and early. Before the sun even rose, I prowled the floor of the local airport, grumbling under my breath at the very idea of a pre-dawn shoot as I scanned the cavernous room for something significant to document. It wasn’t difficult. Square-jawed men in crisp desert cammos, weepy spouses clutching crumpled tissues and fidgety three year olds, teenage boys wiping their eyes when they thought no one was looking - the straggling formation of stoic soldiers and their red-eyed families made for a target-rich environment. So I went to work, setting my camera atop its tripod at the far end of the hall and using every bit of my glass to eavesdrop. Hey, it’s what I do.
Nor was I the only one doing it. A burly news shooter from another station sized up the room for himself before joining me at my isolated perch. There, beside the oversized pot of artificial plants, we chatted about new cameras and old light kits, occasionally breaking off in mid-sentence to zoom in on shots that deserved it. They were everywhere. A large mother in a wrinkled track suit sat and sobbed as her son tightened the straps on his duffel bag. A small brown woman in too-tight jeans babbled into a cell phone, her words blurting out between hitching, painful breaths. A red headed couple held each other tightly, their carrot topped infant swaddled between them. The child stared at the flashing lights of the departure grid, unable to comprehend a place called Iraq.
“Man, this’ll break your heart,” said the big bear of a man beside me. “It’s heavy shit,” I answered, never taking my eyes off my viewfinder. On screen, a Hispanic man in starched camouflage drew his family close. Glancing at my red tally light, I made sure I was indeed recording as the young soldier wrapped his uniformed arms around his wife and two small daughters. For a few long moments, they all huddled together, heads down, silent. Then, with an incredibly tender touch, the soldier kissed each of his girls on the forehead before releasing them from his final grip. That’s when he stepped back and hoisted a green bag the size of a dormitory fridge onto his back. Backing up slowly, he flashed his ladies a carefree grin and winked at them before turning and walking down the tunnel toward the waiting aircraft. By the time he schlepped out of sight, there wasn’t a dry eye on the concourse.