The Death of a Journalist

A love story

| September-October 1996

I can write about this now only because enough time has passed. I have moved on—covered other stories, lived in other countries, found another man to love. But for a long time it was impossible even to talk about what happened, let alone write about it. For a long time I—who prided myself on my dispassionate journalism, my ability to report shocking details with equanimity—was rendered dumb.

These are the facts. Sometime on the afternoon of June 21, 1983, a rented white Toyota Corolla was traveling along the desolate road in southeastern Honduras that hugs the border with Nicaragua. The car eased past a slow-moving truck and, not long after that, perhaps 20 or 30 meters further on, it strayed too close to the center of the road. As it did so, the left front tire made contact with an anti-tank mine that had been planted there.

What happened next is unclear. The tire might have tripped the mine or, as reporters who later visited the site suggested, someone sitting by the side of the road might have pushed a detonation button as the Corolla passed. The explosion was tremendous. The force of it shot the car into the air, then split the body in half; the motor, blown out of the chassis, was found a football field away. The blast left a smoldering crater two meters in diameter in the road.

The two occupants of the car were killed instantly; the coroner assured me of this. At most, he said, they saw a flash of light; light travels faster than sound, and by the time the detonation reached their ears, the passengers would have been dead. One of them was Richard Cross, a handsome young freelance photographer; the other was Dial Torgerson, a veteran correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Although both Cross and Torgerson were severely mutilated, Torgerson, who was driving, bore the brunt of the explosion. The upward momentum of the charge tore off his legs, lower torso, hands.

Those are the facts. But there is one element of this story that sets it apart from all the numbing war reports I filed from Central America: Dial Torgerson was my husband. We had been married for 10 months when he died.


9/17/2015 1:35:16 PM

Just read the book called: An American Success Story: Kerkorian - what an awesome writer, loved it. RIP

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