The war correspondent had been up-country in I Corps, walking the ground near the DMZ where the Marines fought over the Rockpile, Conthien and a dozen hills without names. He got back to the press center in Danang with a story, a vignette of one bloody, now-forgotten battle, and began the struggle to get a telephone call through to Saigon to dictate.
She wasn't much of a typist, but she had volunteered to take dictation when he was in the field. Without her, he would have had to return to Saigon to file each story. Some of the battle stories would have gone stale, overtaken by events, before he could get them to his newspaper. She was lying on her bed reading when the phone rang.
He had to raise his voice to be heard over the line, but for a 1967 Danang-Saigon phone connection, this one wasn't half bad. He was nearing the end of his copy when he heard the explosion. Even over the phone line it sounded close.
"What was that?" he yelled.
"A rocket," she answered.
"Get under the bed," he ordered.
"What," she said, but she meant, "Why?"
"Get under the bed," he said again. "That was too close." The 122mm rocket had, in fact, landed across the street about 25 yards from her bedroom. They both knew the rockets were wildly inaccurate, weapons of terror, useful to keep a city's nerves stretched tight, no good for picking off important targets, no more likely to strike twice than lightning.
She put down the phone and looked under the bed.
"I wouldn't fit," she told the correspondent. "There's only two inches of clearance."
He had no other ideas, so he finished dictating. Then she took his story to the cable office. She walked around the body of a beggar who had been sleeping in his usual doorway, the doorway where the rocket landed. She dropped the copy in the wire basket on top of all the other war stories of that night. The telegrapher, working in his undershirt as usual, didn't look up.
By the time she returned, someone had taken the corpse away. There was a reddish smear on the cement.