Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two horrifying stories

The first is a book review of "Last Train from Hiroshima" in the New York Times. The book is about those who survived both atomic attacks in Japan. The review is so horrifying that you wonder what the book is like. Scenes which Goya or Picasso could never have imagined.
Mr. Pellegrino follows his survivors as they trudge through wastelands that make “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy read like “Goodnight, Moon.” He describes the so-called “ant-walking alligators” that the survivors saw everywhere, men and women who “were now eyeless and faceless — with their heads transformed into blackened alligator hides displaying red holes, indicating mouths.”
The author continues: “The alligator people did not scream. Their mouths could not form the sounds. The noise they made was worse than screaming. They uttered a continuous murmur — like locusts on a midsummer night. One man, staggering on charred stumps of legs, was carrying a dead baby upside down.”
The second is a post at the Foreign Policy blog about whether CNN's Sanjay Gupta, who is a doctor, did the right thing when he treated patients in a field hospital in Haiti.
A somewhat convoluted writeup of the incident reveals that Gupta -- after a team of Beligan doctors and nurses left a field hospital due to security fears -- "monitored patients' vital signs, administered painkillers and continued intravenous drips. He stabilized three new patients in critical condition."
I think he did exactly the right thing, but the photo which accompanies this post! I first saw it 16 years ago, and I remember it, and the story of Kevin Carter who won the Pultizer prize for taking this photograph and then killed himself.

Seeking relief from the sight of masses of people starving to death, he wandered into the open bush. He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl trying to make her way to the feeding center. As he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried. "He was depressed afterward," Silva recalls. "He kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter."

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