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Perry: A Baghdad bomb site everyone should see

Story Highlights

• CNN's Cal Perry films Baghdad bombing site
• Perry got permission to film from blood-drenched security chief
• Iraq's deputy prime minister seriously wounded in attack; nine killed
By Cal Perry
CNN
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Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents and bureau chiefs share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. Here, CNN's Baghdad bureau chief Cal Perry describes an attack on Iraq's deputy prime minister that killed nine people.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- I'm standing with a video camera, held down as far as I can, in the exact spot where less than 15 minutes earlier a man made the choice to blow himself up in an attempt to kill as many people as he could.

The bombed-out compound belongs to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie. Clearly he was the main target of this suicide bombing. Surrounding me are those who survived -- security guards for the now seriously wounded deputy prime minister.

Some of them can barely hear and they all are swinging their weapons back and forth. One of the guards has a belt-fed machine gun. I look at his hands. They're shaking. The safety is switched off the weapon, and it's pointed at me. (Watch the up-close aftermath of the bombing Video)

"Great," I say to myself. All the little things you wish you didn't notice, but can't help doing so in moments like these.

There are body parts and blood all over the floor, on the walls and even hanging off the ceiling. The walls are peppered with the ball bearings the bomber used to maximize carnage from the explosion. Everything is blown out one door -- the pressure of the blast taking bodies, wood, pieces of the floor and anything else out the single exit and into a small courtyard.

There, I find more of the same carnage. This courtyard, I notice, is also the first stop for the flies. Thousands of flies have arrived.

Back in the room where the explosion took place, smoldering wreckage has turned this once nice reception room into a scene of complete inhumanity. There are huge pools of blood on the floor.

I'm aware of what I am walking through, but while concentrating on filming I decide not to think about it. At one point, I catch my foot in the camera's viewfinder. (Interactive: Go inside the bombed-out compound)

In my imagination, standing in the room, I'm reenacting the bomber's morning. In my head, the man kisses his family goodbye, calmly gets into his car and possibly drives to work -- maybe to meet his contact inside this place, passing through various checkpoints. Perhaps he drove past Iraqi police, Iraqi militiamen, U.S. military patrols. Who knows? In my mind, he says a quick prayer, walks through the front door and tries to assassinate a high-ranking member of the Iraqi government -- willing to kill himself.

I'm filming much in part because my personal security guards helped me past the very shaky and stunned guard force. We slowly made our way past guards running in each direction, showing our palms the entire time.

I'm keeping the camera low by my legs, to draw less attention.

The head of security for the deputy prime minister has given me permission to film. Granted, he gave me the permission while he was washing blood from his face. Without question -- you can see it on his face -- he's in a complete state of shock.

I'm only filming for about 2-3 minutes when we can feel the situation changing. The Iraqi police are on the way and will be here at any moment. We walk outside, and try to make our way around the building so I can get some video of the damage caused by a second explosion -- a car bomb that quickly followed the suicide bomb.

It's maybe 30 seconds before the Iraqi police arrive, and they're even more jumpy than the ministry security who actually lived through the explosion. Usually Iraqi police fire into the air, an announcement of their arrival.

Getting the video out to the world

I take the tape out of the camera and shove it under my flak jacket. We make our way back out of the compound. Everyone but us has weapons drawn.

Back in the bureau, the tape is edited into video so CNN anchor Kyra Phillips can start going live on the story. Her job is to simply tell the story of what happened to the world, so we can remove what I call "chosen ignorance."

Everyone in the world should know what that room looked like. Once they see it, no one can ignore the reality of this situation. Kyra starts her live shots, showing the small snippets of video from the scene, and holding up a small ball bearing from the suicide bomber's vest. The live shots go on for hours -- as they should. Her voice is the voice for those who can no longer speak.

This is the essence of what we do everyday in Baghdad. We, the press, try to be a megaphone for all those that cannot speak for themselves. We aim to remove the ability for anyone to ignore what's happening in places all around the globe, especially a place like Baghdad where violence and killings are rampant.

On this day, it's a story of many layers. It's the story of a man willing to kill himself in an effort to kill a high-ranking government official. It's the story of the man's family left behind; the story of the guards who were killed and the guards who lived. It's the story of their families -- dozens of lives changed forever.

It's also the story of a deputy prime minister lying in surgery at a military hospital in the so-called Green Zone. It is the story of the U.S. soldiers treating him, saving his life while wounded U.S. soldiers are being treated on gurneys to his left and right.

All over the world, members of the news media choose to stand in horrible rooms or dangerous regions to act as megaphones. We tell the story of people who cannot tell their own. It's not all refugee camps and starving kids. Sometimes, it's a man who kills himself in order to kill others -- and his story is as important as any other story we can ever tell.


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Debris covers the scene of Friday's deadly attack in the deputy prime minister's compound in Baghdad.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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