After many long months and many long hours of writing, my book "Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival" is in stores today. It's a very strange feeling.
In many ways, I've been writing this book in my head for the past 15 years, ever since I became a reporter. But it wasn't until Hurricane Katrina that I actually started putting it together on paper.
In those dark, difficult days in New Orleans, I started to worry that when the floodwaters receded, and the convention center was cleaned up, people would move on and forget what had happened.
I know we all like to say, "Oh, we could never forget such a tragedy." But the truth is tragedies are forgotten all the time. The media moves on, and so do people's lives.
I suppose that's just the way it is, but I didn't want the heroism, the heartbreak, the compassion, the negligence to just be forgotten, so I started writing about what I was seeing behind the scenes, the kinds of moments and conversations that never make it on television.
I first started working as a reporter soon after graduating from college. I couldn't get an entry level job at ABC News, so I came up with my own plan. I figured if no one would give me a chance, I'd have to take a chance.
With a fake press pass made by a friend and a borrowed video camera, I left the United States to report on wars around the world. In retrospect, it was a foolhardy thing to do, but I was young and didn't feel like I had any other options.
Since those early years, I've visited a lot of countries in conflict, and have seen people lose their lives because of the color of their skin, the ideas in their heads, or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I've worked in Somalia, South Africa, Haiti and Rwanda, and in all these countries, in all these conflicts, I've been awed by what humans are capable of doing to one another -- acts of terrible barbarism and brutality, yes, but also acts of kindness and courage.
In the far reaches of the world, you see what truly lurks in the inner reaches of the human heart, and those lessons were something I wanted to write about.
When I was a child, my father wrote a book about growing up in Mississippi. I remember when I was about eight years old and couldn't sleep, I'd go into his study late at night as he was typing his book and curl up in his lap. Laying my head against his chest, I could always fall asleep listening to the sound of the typewriter and the steady beat of his heart.
Writing my own book has been a very difficult process for me. As I said earlier, it feels strange to suddenly have it enter the marketplace, because it is in many ways a very personal book. It's not only about the tragedies I've covered as a journalist; it's also about the losses in my own life that propelled me to go overseas in the first place.
I will be on the Oprah show today. This will be the first time I will talk about the book in any detail in a large public forum. I don't really know what people will make of it. I do think that loss is a bond all of us share and one many people can relate to. If you choose to read the book, I'd love to hear from you.Click here to read an excerpt from "Dispatches from the Edge"