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Mexican journalist who survived shooting speaks out a year later

By Nick Valencia and Arturo Chacon, CNN
El Diario de Juarez photographer Carlos Sanchez talks with CNN one year after an attack on his vehicle.
El Diario de Juarez photographer Carlos Sanchez talks with CNN one year after an attack on his vehicle.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One year later, he is still troubled by the loss of his best friend
  • The two were sitting in a car in a parking lot in Juarez when the shooting happened
  • They were working as interns for a newspaper at the time
  • "I thought of leaving Juarez forever," he says

(CNN) -- "Why us, why us?"

That's what Carlos Sanchez, a photographer from the newspaper El Diario de Juarez thought a year ago, when unidentified gunmen shot the vehicle he was in at least 12 times.

Three of those bullets hit Carlos; one grazed him in the head, another in the arm and another in the abdomen.

One year later, he is still troubled by the loss of his best friend, Luis Carlos Santiago, who was sitting next to him in the car.

It was Carlos Santiago's body that took a majority of the impact from the shooting, possibly saving his friend's life in the process.

At the time of the attack, Sanchez and Carlos Santiago were working as interns with aspirations of becoming future reporters for the newspaper.

The two friends were sitting in Carlos Santiago's car in a parking lot of a shopping center in Juarez, taking photographs of the urban theme when the attack happened.

There were several shots, so then I yelled to Luis, 'Go! Go!'
RELATED TOPICS
  • Mexico

Sanchez described that day on September 16, 2010.

"We were parking when a vehicle pulled alongside, and then I heard heavy gunfire, and I bent down, and I felt my head get hot. I also felt wetness all over my body," Sanchez, 19, said.

He later realized the moisture he felt was blood from three 9 mm bullet wounds.

"There were several shots, so then I yelled to Luis, 'Go! Go!' But we went in reverse until the car stopped, then I turned around to see him, and he didn't answer me. His head was full of blood. I opened the door and ran inside the mall," he said calmly, seemingly detached altogether from his near fatal incident.

"Inside the mall I pleaded for help, because I started to see blurry and my head hurt, but no one knew I had only been grazed, so I thought I was going to die right there," Sanchez said.

The ambulance took him to the nearest hospital, where he had surgery to remove his bullet in the abdomen. He spent five days there, during which he said he was thinking of fleeing to El Paso, Texas.

"I thought of leaving Juarez forever, but I don't even have a visa, so I had to stay and live with fear awhile," he said.

Despite watching his friend die and surviving the attack, Sanchez rejoined the paper five months after the incident.

He still enjoys journalism, he said, and is now a full-time staff photographer for a newspaper that was just awarded the Maria Moors Cabot prize, presented by Columbia University in New York.

It is listed as the oldest international award in the field of journalism presented for journalistic contributions to inter-American understanding.

Sanchez said it's still not clear why they were attacked. He described his survival as incredible, adding, "I'm sure the attack was not meant for me."

"Since the attack happened, I value my life and try to spend more time with my family," Sanchez said. He said despite the attack, he enjoys working as a photojournalist.

Attacks on journalists are common in Mexico.

In November 2008, Armando Rodriguez, also a reporter for El Diario de Juárez, died after being shot 11 times outside his home.

The Latin American Federation of Journalists has a record of 15 journalists killed in 2009, while 14 more were killed in 2010. In 2011, at least eight journalists have been killed so far.

 
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