by David Borzo
CBS News reporter and CBS 60 minutes reporter Lara Logan gave a mesmerizing and unscripted talk to a captivated audience at the Des Moines Civic Center. Her story is a powerful testament to human endurance and fortitude. I don’t like to throw such expansive terms around, but this celebrated journalist provided an extraordinary experience for the 2013 SmartTalk Connected Conversations™ crowd. A reporter for over 20 years, Laura has worked in some of the most dangerous hot spots in the world. Her talk showed why she commands such respect among the world’s elite foreign correspondents. She’s sharp, knowledgeable and honest in her communication, and she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, putting herself in harm’s way to get the story.
She’s used to fighting. “I have had this innate sense of justice and injustice my whole life. Growing up in South Africa it was right there [all] around…suffering and injustice on a terrible, terrible scale…” she said in a New York Times interview. She shared some of her bizarre reporting experiences, and of course her nightmare of horror in Egypt in 2011 when reporting for 60 minutes. It was an experience that changed her life forever, that dramatic night when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation; Logan was covering the massive celebrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There was a crazy environment and a growing hurricane of danger.
Her Egyptian CBS crewmembers heard men in the surrounding crowd making threatening sexual comments, and told her they needed to leave immediately. Before they could get away, she felt hands grabbing at her from the crowd. Hundreds of men closed in; they tore off her clothes and, in her words, raped her with their hands all while taking photographs with their cell phones. This lasted 25 minutes. They pulled at her hair so hard it felt as if they ripped off chunks of her scalp. She looked into the people’s eyes as they were assaulting her; she could see that there was no feeling for her as a human being, and she was sure that she was going to die.
It wasn’t easy to listen to…imagine how hard it was to share the trauma to the large SmartTalk crowd. While she can now speak candidly about her experience, that night taught her something new – how to be afraid. It also gave her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her recovery will never be complete, her fear will never be totally gone, but Laura Logan is determined not be a victim. She has a more profound appreciation for life and her family, and an indomitable sense of her own strength. It was a SmartTalk Conversation evening that won’t be forgotten.