I can’t stop looking at the pictures coming out of Haiti. The most graphic of these photos can only be described.
I can’t stop looking at the pictures coming out of Haiti:
_A young woman, a look of deep weariness on her face and a bandage on her arm, lies on a makeshift pallet laid out on what could be a parking lot. Her toddler son, wearing only a pair of shorts and a bandage on his head, nevertheless is the picture of contentment as he snuggles up to her and nurses. For a nursing child, where Mom is, peace is. The look on the mother’s face shows she knows better.
_A man grimaces open-mouthed in pain. Though he appears to be getting an IV, the cutline explains that he died shortly after the picture was taken because of a lack of proper medical equipment.
_A little girl dressed in a ratty T-shirt and wearing a bandage on her forehead with the date written on the front of it sits on a bare mattress and tries to open a can of Vienna sausages. In a second picture, the same girl and another young girl identified as her sister have managed to open the can and are eating the sausages. The other girl has an injury that will surely leave a disfiguring scar across her nose and upper lip.
_Dozens of pictures show rescue teams from everywhere — the U.S., Taiwan, Spain, France, the Dominican Republic — bringing aid to Haitians on stretchers. One young man so shown had been trapped a week without food and water.
_Men run past a burning body, so badly burned that at first it’s hard to be sure that that’s what it is.
_In a hard-to-understand photo, bodies are lying in and near an abandoned coffin on a road running by a garbage dump. You wonder what the story is — why someone placed bodies in nice wooden coffins and then dumped the bodies and coffin by the side of the road. The next photo helps tell the story. It is of a man pulling a body from a coffin so he can steal it.
_Men using their bare hands pull at pieces of heavy concrete wreckage, looking for survivors. Just outside the men’s line of sight, a dusty pair of legs sticks out.
_An overhead shot shows an uncountable number of bodies laid in the street. The only photo I have ever seen to equal it was of the mass Jamestown suicide in Guyana. In what looks like a related shot, a man walks among the bodies, searching for a loved one. But the bodies lie in such a thick jumble that it would be easy to walk right by the one you seek. If not for the occasional limb, it almost looks like piles of laundry lying jumbled there.
_A front loader prepares to dump a body of a man into a dump truck. His anguished wife, in another shot, cries as another woman appears to hold her back.
_A mass grave holds bodies covered with a thin layer of soil. You can tell that more layers of bodies are coming.
_But there are also shots of huge containers of food and medical supplies. Shots of jubilant people who have found their loved ones alive. Shots of search dogs from all over the world. Air drops of food and water parachuting down to areas where they are desperately needed.
_Three orphans, wrapped in a bright yellow blanket, only their heads peeping over the top, look all around as they are transferred from a plane to a bus in Pittsburgh. They will be given medical care and then will be adopted. It’s a joy to see a few children who have beaten the odds after looking at so many in misery.
The most graphic of these photos can only be described. Most newspapers are extremely hesitant to print pictures of bodies, and readers often react angrily when they do. But I question whether we should forge ahead and do so anyway. In Haiti this week, you cannot really tell the story without showing the bodies. And the story must be told.
As I write this, one of our staff members is in Haiti, doing what he can to allay some of the greatest suffering imaginable. The rest of us go on, complaining about the recession or the weather maybe, and eating at every meal and sleeping safely in our beds at night.
Our security is an illusion, however. Any one of us — or all of us — could be hit by a personal tragedy or a mass disaster at any time. Yes, we enjoy greater safety and protection than the Haitians, but ask people who lived through Katrina if being an American is any guarantee.
Pekin Daily Times Editor Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.