I had a feeling the situation was going to end up badly. So I moved over to the side, because I feared at least some warning shots would be fired. The car kept coming. It was dark. Sure enough, somebody fired some warning shots, the car kept coming. And then they fired into the car. And it limped into the intersection, clearly no longer under its own power, just on momentum, and gently came to rest on a curb. I was kind of paralyzed, and then slowly walked to the car and, sure enough, I hear children’s voices inside the car, and I knew it was a family. The doors opened; the back doors opened, and kids just tumble out of the car, one after one after one — six in all. One was shot to the abdomen, though we didn’t realize he was shot at the time, though he was bleeding profusely and as soon as he dropped, there was blood in the street. The soldiers realized it was a civilian car. They ran and grabbed all the kids and ran them to the sidewalk. In the front seat, what ended up being the parents were killed, riddled with bullets, instantly dead. The children in the back were, incredibly enough, okay, except for the one kid who was winged in the abdomen.

I photographed the car coming in, and even the tail end of it getting shot up and it resting on the curb, the children coming out, the soldiers carrying them over to the side, treating them, looking them over, trying to figure out who was shot, who was not. And the father — the mother’s body was collapsed, you could hardly see her, but the father was still sitting up on the seat, riddled with bullets, his skull had almost collapsed because it had been shot so many times.

What happened was — and we found out from the boy who was shot, he ended up being flown to Boston for treatment — they were out visiting with family or something and they knew that their curfew was in the evening, so they were trying to get home. It was a little bit after the curfew, but time is never a precise thing to Iraqis — it’s not like this German, iron-clad, six-o-one curfew. It’s more like, all right, you’re not supposed to be driving around at night. Generally speaking, you could be out on the roads after six o’clock and nothing would happen to you. They were just trying to hustle and get home, and they’re driving along, and all of a sudden they hear shots. They don’t see — it’s dark — they don’t see camouflaged soldiers in the dark in front of them. They just hear shots. Now, when you’re in a car driving around Iraq and you hear shots, your first instinct is to speed up, because either someone’s shooting at you for some reason or somebody’s about to get into a battle nearby. Either way, you don’t want to be around there; you want to get out of there. And then, the headlight range — by the time they actually get into the region of your headlights, forget it, that’s way too close, they’re already engaging you by that point, shooting you up by that point. So that’s why they didn’t stop.

So I photographed this thing, and again [the military] didn’t try to obstruct me or stop me from photographing — and they could have — and it’s kind of remarkable that they didn’t; it’s kind of a human reaction and so on. But they didn’t, and that has happened before: sketchy things have happened on embeds. Almost every soldier in Iraq has been involved in some sort of incident like that or another, I would say. Their attitude about it was grim, but it wasn’t the end of their world. It was, “Well, kind of wished they’d stopped. We fired warning shots. Damn, I don’t know why the hell they didn’t stop. What’re you doing later, you want to play Nintendo? Okay.” Just a day’s work for them. That stuff happens in Iraq a lot. That’s why it’s such a damn mess, because almost everybody’s had something like that happen to them at the hands of U.S. soldiers. They hate them.

The Editors