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Fox News’ Pierre Zakrzewski died Monday doing what he loved to do most: chasing a story.
He was one of the best combat cameramen – all-around cameramen, for that matter – in the business.
He was an incredible journalist. He knew the stories inside and out.
He was an amazing colleague. So many people in the media will remember how he helped them in the field, selflessly, and earned friendship upon friendship.
And he was a dear friend. We’d fight like cats and dogs over some angle of a story one moment. And the next moment we’d be rocking out to the Rolling Stones, our favorite band.
We worked together for over 20 years. He got incredible video in story after story we’d cover. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Mideast, the DMZ, riots in Hong Kong, Paris terror, Asian earthquakes.
He saved my own life on many occasions.
We were embedded in the lead Marine company in the battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004. Three Marines were killed, 18 injured, just in our unit. He had my back.
He carried 80 pounds of electronic camera gear on his back as we scaled the Kunar Mountains in eastern Afghanistan with young army recruits in 2006. It was the one time I saw him out of breath!
We’ve dodged bricks and bats and paving stones and stinging tear gas in riot after riot from Hong Kong to Athens to Paris. He always knew which way to turn and get the best pictures.
He loved people.
He loved travel.
He loved family.
He loved food.
He didn’t drink much or smoke or do drugs. He was high on life.
He hated… hated… hated sitting around the newsroom.
He hated stuck-up rich brats. He loved regular folks.
And he might have told a few symbols of authority which way to go from time to time.
We called him Zak… Peppy… the Pep-ster… Pepé Le Pew. His family name, Zakrzewski, was a bit hard to interpret (it’s pronounced Zak-shev-ski).
His father was Polish. His mother was French. They met in Scotland. He was raised in Ireland. And with his big mane of curly black hair and mustache, he looks like he should be from somewhere south of the Sahara!
And he bears a passing resemblance to the comic character “Borat.” When the movie was popular, the troops loved to take pictures with him.
He worked hard and he played hard. A classic Type A character (one foot was always fidgeting). His vacations included riding a motorcycle across the Kenyan desert, hanging out with left-wing guerilla fighters in Central America and climbing any mountain that was handy.
He was so colorful, one French author wanted to do an illustrated book about his life.
Before he got to Fox News, in the late ’80s, he was riding with the mujahideen on donkeys crossing into Afghanistan to fight the then-Soviet army.
In 1989, he smuggled out pictures of the deadly crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. In the ’90s, he covered all sorts of coups and disasters.
And he found the time one summer to take a job sucking asbestos out of attic ceilings in Rhode Island!
It was not just me who liked working with him. Everybody wanted to.
Benjamin Hall on the ISIS story. Trey Yingst in the last days of Afghanistan. Both in the plunging hell of Kyiv. Steve Harrigan wanted Pierre whenever he could get him. So did Mike Tobin. Amy Kellogg adored working with him. So did our new London reporter, Alex Hogan.
He worked selflessly to get Afghans out of trouble when the Taliban took over in that country.
Over the years, he would host refugees at his home… adopt long-distance needy folks from around the world. He wasn’t into high-profile charities. He just liked people to people.
His back ached all the time. Sometimes it would freeze up, and he’d have to lie on the ground. All due to carrying more gear on trips than any other cameraman around. His “bum bag” (a zipped container belted around the waist) carried more items than a pick-up truck.
He was as deaf as a coot, from standing too close to the artillery blasts too many times.
He had a photographic memory and would recall names and people and stories from years ago. I called him my external memory hard-drive.
He was a good teacher. He trained up young journalists in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was patient and thorough. But he did not suffer fools gladly.
The terrible shelling outside of Kyiv which resulted in his death was not the first time he got into trouble. Bombs, rockets, shells have exploded around him in the past. We always said he was like a cat with nine lives.
Tragically, this week, those lives ran out.
He once told me he was going to work a bit longer and then retire. But his plans for retirement with his lovely wife, Mich, were not going to be relaxing. They were going to travel the world and go to every nook and cranny they hadn’t been to yet.
Now, he won’t get to do that.
As a present for putting up with me, I took him to see the Rolling Stones in London on their 50th anniversary tour a while back. Just the other day, I saw the group planned a 60th-anniversary concert in Hyde Park this summer. I was all set to get another round of tickets.
Now, he won’t go there.
We’re going to miss you, Pierre. We already do. Big hug.