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Reporters on the Job

First Impressions: Many journalists in Haiti want to visit Cité Soleil - one of the most violent slums in the Western hemisphere - but don't know how, given the security concerns, says reporter Danna Harman. When she serendipitously met an Irish priest who works in Soleil, she jumped at the chance to go with him to get today's story.

"I felt comfortable going with Father Tom because everyone knows him there," Danna says. But on the road, it's less clear who's who, and highway robberies are common. "We drove in the first day, and I was chatting, sitting in the back seat. Suddenly a guy in the middle of the road raises his arm and shoots. I got down and someone fell on top of me."

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The gunman, it seems, was aiming elsewhere. Everyone was safe, and they pressed on. When Danna got up, she realized it was Father Tom who had fallen on her - prompting his two assistants to upbraid him. "They were scolding Father Tom for giving me a bad impression of the neighborhood by acting so frightened," says Danna. She adds: "It was sort of sweet, actually."

Speaking of first impressions, Danna must have made a strange one when she first met Father Tom.

She had an appointment with a man named Tom Braak who works in Haiti as a missionary. "Addresses are notoriously complicated in Port-au-Prince, and phone connections are even worse. So, my driver and I found ourselves searching the back alleys and asking everyone if they knew Father Tom, a 'white man.' Finally, we reached a door. Inside is an Irish Catholic priest named Tom. I say 'Hi,' and we sit down and start talking about his work. In a few moments I realize this is indeed a Father Tom, but not the one I have been corresponding with!"

Ben Arnoldy
Asia editor