The War on Terror and a boy called Jimmy made 2001 a year to remember for broadcaster Mike McRoberts.

I was at TVNZ at the start of 2001 and had been reporting on Holmes for three years. Mark Jennings rang me with a proposal to go to TV3. I told Mark I'd have to tell my boss, Paul Cutler, he'd approached me, as that was part of my contract. Cutler's first words were: "We'll sue you if you try to resign." So I went back to Jennings and said: "Let's have a meeting." I met with Terence Taylor, then executive producer of 20/20, and Mike Brockie who was producing the 6 o'clock news, and I thought: "This is where I want to be."

I went back to TVNZ and thought the worst-case scenario would be paying back six months' salary. That wasn't the worst case. I had to go through the employment court to win the right to resign. I won, but I still had to pay back the salary and work for a month. For my first year at TV3 I earned less than I had the year before. I finished at TVNZ on a Thursday and presented the 6 o'clock news the next day. I hadn't been to TV3 before, so had to ring the receptionist to find out where to go.

Later in the year I was watching the coverage of 9/11 and little knew it would change my future.

The focus quickly went to Afghanistan. I ended up flying over with Phil Vine, a 20/20 producer, and Michael Lacoste, a cameraman everyone called Dutchie.


My wife, Paula Penfold, and I had our son Ben the year before, and Paula told me the day before we left she was pregnant with our second child. I had a little weep in the taxi on the way to the airport. I wondered what I'd got myself into.

We saw the worst aspects of foreign affairs journalism - there were lots of people in fatigues not leaving the hotel foyer.

We decided we had to go where things were happening. I met a boy called Jimmy who translated for us and had family living in Kabul. We took him with us as our translator.

Two months after we arrived, the Americans launched Operation Infinite Justice [later renamed Operation Enduring Freedom]. We thought we could hear bombers. Jimmy told us everyone was meeting at a mosque the next day.

We got there and it was clear people were unhappy about the bombing. There was a protest march, which quickly became a riot. People were being grabbed and thrown to the ground. Dutchie was filming walking backwards and I could see he was about to be enveloped by these guys. I grabbed him and he was still filming, being chased by protestors. It became famous footage that TV3 used for some time.

I tried to get Jimmy back here but he didn't have a passport. We did get some money together for him, which he used to pay for his university education.

Mike McRoberts is an ambassador for the inaugural Tauranga Marathon on Saturday, October 7.