Monday, September 12, 2005

Triage

We walk into the lower level of the airport and make our way into what is one of the worst scenes I've ever seen. Our jaws drop. Literally. Right in front of us is one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen in this country and would never have imagined could ever occur in this, the richest nation in the world. Sixty or so people, most of them elderly, most near death or definitely in critical condition, have been spread around the luggage area. Some are on the conveyor belt. I have a real hard time shooting this because it's so overwhelming that I know I need to make a strong image. I'm not sure I have it even to this day, but at one point there is a photograph with an older lady with her eyes sunken into her skull, mouth agape, looking in my direction. She was gazing out, not really focusing on anything. I'm fighting back tears as much as I can. I have trouble breathing: these people are so close to death and they're just lying there. The staff is completely overwhelmed - 900 people an hour are arriving into the airport. I'm shocked that they haven't kicked me out yet but when I speak to the staff they encourage me to photograph the scene, "We need all the help we can ... we can't keep up here," one of them tells me, almost coming to tears. It's hard to make these images. It's tough to press the shutter but it has to be done because this is the clearest example that this whole thing is going wrong.

Photographs of Vince Laforet at the Digital Journalist site

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