I hadn't been particularly worried about Laura's assignment to the Chinese-North Korean border. A month earlier she had been in Juarez, Mexico, a city that had a higher death rate than Baghdad. The Los Angeles Times regularly carried headline stories about law enforcement officers and journalists being attacked by narco-traffickers. Every day Laura was there, I was struck by episodes of paralytic concern. She and her producer were shadowing Mexican homicide reporters who were chasing death. The documentary that aired showed one gruesome crime scene after another—from corpses left in a trash-filled ravine to mutilated bodies riddled with dozens of bullet holes. Needless to say, our family breathed a major sigh of relief when Laura was finally back from that assignment. She was so preoccupied with getting the Mexico show on the air that she never even told me she was going to Asia several weeks later. It was almost an afterthought when she mentioned that soon she would be leaving for another trip.
"What are you doing?" I pressed. "You just came back. I thought you were going to stop traveling so much."
"I know, Li," she replied. "Don't worry. Everything is already set up."
Laura and her team were headed first to Seoul and then to China's border with North Korea to meet up with contacts and do some prearranged interviews. The trip was supposed to last a week and a half. My husband, Paul, even made a dinner reservation at a new barbecue restaurant for the Friday of Laura's return. Still, none of us, including our parents and Laura's husband, Iain, were eager for her to go. She had just wrapped up an extensive assignment, and we felt she had been working too hard recently. But arguing with Laura was pointless. She had always put a great deal of pressure on herself and felt obligated to do everything herself. She never stopped working.
Whenever we were together, she constantly checked her BlackBerry no matter what was going on around her. I'm a self-professed BlackBerry addict too, but Laura put me to shame. I found myself constantly frustrated by her lack of attention to anything but work. A few times I noticed it taking a toll on Iain. More than once I tried to scare her by telling her she better start paying more attention to her husband or he might find someone else who would.
Excerpted from Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home by Laura Ling & Lisa Ling. Copyright © 2010 by HarperCollins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published on May 18, 2010