SI Vault
Bridging the Gulf
Leigh Montville
December 30, 1991
A chance reunion with a photographer who covered the war helped put the year in focus
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 30, 1991

Bridging The Gulf

A chance reunion with a photographer who covered the war helped put the year in focus

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

THE NEW YEAR: I stood on the roof of the Hyatt Regency in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 27, Super Bowl Sunday. A reporter and a photographer from the Minneapolis Star Tribune had taken me there to watch for Scud missiles. The reporter and photographer said this was the best vantage point in the city. I asked why this was so.

"Do you see that green building across the street?" Paul McEnroe, the reporter, said.


"That's the Pentagon of Saudi Arabia," Jeff Wheeler, the photographer, said. "That's the one building Saddam Hussein would like to hit more than anything else in this entire country. We're standing at ground zero. This is where he is aiming."

The afternoon was warm. I was told that at night the roof was crowded, filled with cameramen and still photographers, their lenses pointed north, everyone waiting. This was only the 11th day of the war, but already patterns seemed to have been established. Scuds were fired mostly at night. Only one cameraman was at his post now. Just in case. The others would run up the 20-odd flights of stairs from the fourth-floor press headquarters if the sirens sounded.

"You've seen a Scud from up here?" I asked.

"Two nights ago," McEnroe said. "It was amazing. It came right over us, landed about three blocks away. Have you seen that big government building? It was leveled. I'll take you there later if you want to see."

I was the strangest of visitors to this scene. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. The sergeant in the fourth-floor office, looking at my application for a press credential, had muttered that this was the latest absurdity in a long list. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED? My job was to fly halfway around the world, watch the Super Bowl television broadcast at two o'clock the next morning with some of the troops, write the story, then turn around and come home. I would be at the war for a total of four days.

"We're going to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and drive it all the way to Kuwait," Wheeler said about his own plans. "We're here for the whole thing."

"I suppose we should take the extra insurance, huh?" McEnroe said.

Continue Story
1 2 3