“just needed to get the stories off my chest”

“I just needed to get the stories off my chest.”

Today was an inspiring day of .

Nahlah Ayed, CBC correspondent, who is back in London after two months in Ukraine, spent an hour speaking to Red River College through the wonderful world of Skype.

A few weeks back I wrote about her book, A Thousand Farewells.  

To be able to ask her questions about her journalistic process, her thoughts on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and how she deals with what she reports on was very heartening.

What stood out for me was the quote that I reiterated at the top “I just needed to get the stories off my chest.”  The question surrounded, how she dealt with the horrible things she witnessed and reported on in Iraq.  In her book, in the chapter, “Ghosts” she talks of the mass graves in Iraq and this meeting with a man who is searching the bodies for his lost brothers.

In her book she says, “no journalism class teaches you how to deal with that.”

She said, you take it all in, you film, write and tell your stories and then you go off and cry and talk it all out with loved ones.  Ayed talked about how she wrote her book, because she in part needed to deal with everything she saw, “I needed to get the stories off my chest.”  She needed to share everything.

I commend her for this.  I loved this answer.  It was a human answer, a real answer.  It was something I could connect with.

Later as the discussion was winding down she answered a question about a fear of not living up to the stories.  Not doing them justice.  You hear these unbelievable stories and must share them, and share them well.  She talked about the January 2013 Algerian hostage crisis.  She told us “it was like someone was giving me their baby… I said I would never write another book, but that story made me want to write another one to make sure that I did the story right.”

About four months ago I started sharing my grandfather’s stories.  I started from the beginning and have worked my way through the timeline my grandfather and I spent so long organizing. For ten years I have researched, interviewed and written my grandfather’s stories.  I travelled all over Europe searching out all the details.  I did my undergrad at the University of Winnipeg, specializing in the Second World War to make sure I could be a credible voice to write his stories.  I didn’t want to fail in them.

A saying that we have in our family that is repeated in German, almost as joke, rang again in my head today, “Mach mir keine schande.”  “Do not disappoint,” or “do me no shame.” I wanted to do them justice.  I wanted to shine a light on the time period and bring truth to the time period.

As I researched and studied, I will admit that I struggled sometimes with subject matter (prior posts show that).  I got angry, I took off traveling almost as a way of escaping, though I always ended up going back to where the stories took place. I cried, I laughed, I yelled and I talked them over with colleagues and loved ones, but the important thing was that I started to share them.

Now I haven’t shared all of them yet, (a book in February 2015 will do that) but I needed to start somewhere. I needed to start getting them off my chest, because they are important.  They are important to understand what went on so many years ago and they are important because I am part of the last generation that will be directly able to talk to someone from that time period…

I thank Nahlah Ayed for taking the time today to inspire a fellow story-teller.

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