PORT-AU-PRINCE — All hell broke loose.
They were firing at us from up in the hill, the buildings and from everywhere else. Bullets were flying from everywhere, everywhere. They were firing from rooftops. There were all different caliber rifles. All automatic.
I think this was the chimres — militant supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I don’t know if it was an ambush, but that’s their territory. That’s their turf.
The shooters got closer and closer and closer, and we thought they would come into the compound. [Sun-Sentinel photographer] Mike Laughlin was hit. I asked him if he was OK. You know that look when someone gets shot? He wasn’t in shock, but he was close. He had that look.
I told him, “If we have to leave, you hide and we’ll get an ambulance and come back for you.”
? ? ?
I was working with Daniel Morel, a freelance photographer for Reuters and others. The opposition was having a march from Petionville down to the presidential palace, probably about 12 miles.
It started off pretty small, maybe 300 or 400 people. Then the crowd grew to 2,000, 3,000, 5,000 people. We shot a bunch of pictures down near the palace.
Some of the protesters started burning a tire. They were going to burn a picture of Aristide. We jumped over a fence and walked over to where the tire was burning. A firetruck was hosing down the tire and some of the hot people in the street. We jumped on top of the truck, photographing the people being hosed down. We looked at each other and said, “We have enough for the day.”
Then, a bunch of people started running up the street. They said someone shot one of the protesters about two blocks from the palace.
We started walking up there and there was a squad of police but they stopped about a block and a half from the body. This caused some of the demonstrators, young boys, to get really agitated. The kids were picking up rocks and throwing them.
I saw Mike. I said, “Mike, it’s getting too bleeping hairy up here. Let’s pull back and watch from over there.”
We turned around and some of us took cover and that’s when all hell broke loose. They were firing from rooftops. The journalists were scared and running from it. Kids in the street were running, diving down, eating dirt.
That’s when Mike got hit. I was behind a foot-and-a-half thick concrete wall. Here comes Mike running, with blood all over the top of his shirt, blood running down his neck. We grabbed him.
Then we saw this family across the street. They opened the door and told us to come in for cover. They were giving us safe haven.
I had never met them before. That’s Haitians. That’s what Haitians do. We’re perfect strangers, and they gave us a safe place.
We sat Mike down. I started yelling at him. Rule No. 1 is to keep them talking.
I kept him talking about anything I could think of. I said, ”We’ll clean you up and get you to a topless bar.” Just to get him talking, get him laughing. Keep him talking, keep him talking, keep him talking.
He was grazed along the cheek and along the neck, and he had a small entry hole in the top part of his shoulder with no exit hole. It looked like a .22-caliber bullet.
They had a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and I got a clean towel and I started cleaning Mike’s wounds. We stopped the bleeding.
I was with maybe six other journalists and we came under more fire. Constant firing was going on. I looked through the peephole. The SWAT team had left.
The firing was getting closer and the rounds started going into the compound. I told everyone to get inside and hide or else we would endanger the people who gave us haven. I didn’t want the shooters to take revenge on these people.
Meanwhile, Daniel had gotten on his cellphone and was talking to the American Embassy, trying to give them our location so the Marines could get us out. He also called Jane Regan, a freelance writer for The Sun-Sentinel and others, and she also was on the phone to the Americans. This was going on for about 20 minutes. No one was showing up. Nothing.
Some photographers were going out and getting sprayed on. I was yelling at them to come inside. But the shooters found us and were firing down into the compound.
Ricardo Ortega, a Spanish television correspondent, went out into the yard and started filming. Then three different caliber guns just unloaded in the courtyard.
He got it right in the chest and went down on his back. His arm went up and down. Blood just started pouring out of the lower part of his back. I knew it was bad. He died a little later in a hospital. A Haitian journalist was hit, too.
Daniel decided to jump the fence and get an ambulance. He was the hero. There’s constant rounds coming in, and they’re getting closer and closer and closer.
He came back and said the ambulance was on the way. It showed up with sirens. The firing stopped for a while. We picked Mike up and he walked on his own. We got him inside the ambulance. [Laughlin returned to South Florida for treatment Monday.]
He asked me to call The Sun-Sentinel, and I called them and said he’d been hit but he’s doing fine. He wanted everyone to know that he was OK. . .
I picked up a Haitian man who had been shot and carried him down the hill, about two blocks. I finally saw the Marines and they were going the wrong way. I flagged down a passing truck and it took the guy to the hospital.
? ? ?
By the time I got back to the hotel, we already heard that it was on the radio that a photographer from South Florida had been shot. I knew I’d better call my family, so I called my brother John in Kansas. He’s my older brother, so I knew he would call everybody for me.
I’ve been here for over a month. When am I coming back? When it’s over. They asked me if I would go for the duration and I said I would.
This is nothing. I’ve been under heavy gunfire before in Iraq and in Afghanistan. This is nothing. This made news just because it involved journalists.
There’s gunfire here every single night.
This account is based on an interview of Bosch on Monday by Herald staff writer Martin Merzer. Bosch, 44, has worked at The Herald for 21 years.