Chris Cuomo has his share of harrowing on camera moments, but on Tuesday he had a dramatic one off-camera: While talking to a reporter about his current effort to follow the remains of victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the CNN anchor was stopped at a checkpoint in Ukraine on his way to Amsterdam by a guard with a sizable firearm.

“This isn’t a cop stopping you. They have loaded AK-47s or Kalashnikovs and they are pointing them at you,” Cuomo explained while, he said, he was showing his identification papers so he might proceed on a trip he expects to take him to Amsterdam. “This is a different animal here.”

Cuomo has been in the Ukrainian industrial city of Donetsk and around the Flight 17 crash site for six days, and is now en route to Amsterdam, part of an effort he said is an important one: “I want to follow the victims back home,” Cuomo explained. “I want to keep emphasis on that angle.” The airline was shot down by a missile while traveling over territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists, and all 298 passengers aboard were killed.

As is its custom when breaking stories of wide interest develop, CNN has focused nearly all of its recent programming on the events surrounding the fallen airplane, which was shot down over Ukraine late last week. The network has used little of its taped programming and instead has stayed live on the air for about 117 hours since the incident was reported Thursday. Cuomo normally hosts CNN’s morning program, “New Day,” with Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

Cuomo said he would like to stay with the story until a resolution becomes evident or CNN producers decide to call him back. “I think it’s really important to keep focus on them,” he said. “They weren’t party to any conflict” that appears to be behind the plane’s destruction.

But he is keeping personal safety in mind: “I’m not a cowboy and I’m not a soldier. I’m a dad and a husband, and I’m a dad and a husband first,” he said. But this story “matters, and you do what matters, and this is a just horrible thing that happened here.”

He also has continued ambition for “New Day.” While acknowledging the program “has to grow, it has to get better,” Cuomo said it’s “a good show that is based on the understanding of taking what matters seriously but not taking ourselves seriously.” He feels “New Day” is “significantly challenging ‘Morning Joe’ [on MSNBC] for the mandate of having the smartest show on cable television, and I want that mantle.”