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VOA Reporter Documents Dramatic Medical Event in Jordan - 2002-03-21

A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage

Reporters cover important events nearly every day, and sometimes historic, dramatic and emotional ones. They tend to get used to it. But every once in a while, something happens that touches even the most seasoned reporter.

VOA correspondent Alan Heil had such an experience one day in 1970. Mr. Heil said, "The gates of customs were swinging in the wind."

Mr. Heil had just arrived in Amman, Jordan to cover the aftermath of a short but bitterly fought civil war. The airport was virtually deserted. He said, "I went out and figured that my only cab ride in town would be one of those armored personnel carries that was taking medical supplies to the MASH hospital in the middle of Amman."

At the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, medics were trying to help an eight-year old boy with shrapnel stuck in his eye. Mr. Heil continued, "And then one of the medics said, 'Anybody got a spike here, a metal spike?'"

Nobody did and so the medic found a spike in the debris of war, outside in the street. And he made a magnet.

"That medic coiled a little wire around that spike," Mr. Heil said. "They fashioned it and hooked it up to a battery, put that spike in front of the kid's eye and they pulled that shrapnel right out of that eye. 'You'll see again,' said the medic."

Alan Heil recorded the event and had a report ready within minutes, but there were no working telephones or telegraph machines to send it to Washington. Mr. Heil gave his audio cassette to a military pilot who took it to Athens. VOA broadcast the report about ten hours later.

Alan Heil went on to become VOA's deputy director, and acting-Director for a time. He retired four years ago and has just finished writing a book about VOA.

Snapshots will contine throughout our 60th anniversary year, here at

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