Friday, September 11, 2009

The Survivor Tree (USA)

A photograph of the Survivor Tree elm at the Oklahoma City National Memorial as taken on 18 September 2004 by Dustin M. Ramsey.

The Survivor Tree is an American elm on the north side of the Memorial. This tree was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building, and commuters came in to work early to get one of the shady parking spots provided by its branches. 
Photos of Oklahoma City taken around the time of statehood (1907) show this tree, meaning it is currently at least 102 years old. Despite its age, the tree was neglected and taken for granted prior to the blast. Heavily damaged by the bomb, the Tree ultimately survived after nearly being chopped down during the initial investigation, in order to recover evidence hanging in its branches and embedded in its bark. 
The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree, glass and debris were imbedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left of the tree. Most thought the tree could not survive. However, almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony under the tree noticed it was beginning to bloom again. In that instant the tree became a symbol of what the city had come through.
Like the tree, the city had been bent and bowed but it had not been broken. The tree and the city survived.

The Survivor Tree now thrives, in no small part because the specifications for the Outdoor Memorial design included a mandate to feature and protect the Tree. One example of the dramatic measures taken to save the Tree: one of the roots that would have been cut by the wall surrounding the Tree was placed inside a large pipe, so it could reach the soil beyond the wall without being damaged. A second example is the decking around the Tree, which is raised several feet to make an underground crawlspace; workers enter through a secure hatchway and monitor the health of the Tree and maintain its very deep roots.

The inscription around the inside of the deck wall around the Survivor Tree reads: 
The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.

Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing today in public and private places all over the United States; saplings were sent to Columbine High School after the massacre there, to New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and various times. 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Neda (Iran)

The death of Neda Agha-Soltan drew international attention when her death was captured on video by bystanders and broadcast over the internet. The video quickly became a rallying point for the reformist opposition.

On 20 June 2009, Neda was sitting in traffic on Kargar Avenue in the city of TehranShe was accompanied by her music teacher and close friend, Hamid Panahi, and two others, who remain unidentified. The four were on their way to participate in the protests against the outcome of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.
She stopped her car some distance from where the main protests were being held that day and got out on foot in order to escape the heat because the car's air conditioner was not working well. She was standing and observing the sporadic protests in the area when she was shot in the chest.

As captured on amateur video, she collapsed to the ground and was tended to for several seconds. Someone in the crowd around her shouted, "She has been shot! Someone, come and take her!" The videos were accompanied by a message from a doctor, later identified as Dr. Arash Hejazi, who said he had been present during the incident (but has since fled Iran out of fear of government reprisals):

"At 19:05 June 20th Place: Kargar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father [sic, later identified as her music teacher] watching the protests was shot by a Basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about one kilometer away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gas used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me."

Her last words were, "I'm burning, I'm burning!"] She was pronounced dead en route to Tehran's Shariati hospital, aged 27.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbine Massacre (USA)

The Columbine High School massacre occurred on 20 April 1999, at Colimbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, embarked on a massacre, killing 12 students and a teacher, as well as wounding 23 others, before committing suicide.

It is the fourth-deadliest school massacre in United States history, after the 1927 Bath School Disaster, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 1966 University of Texas massacre, and the deadliest for an American High School.
The above still, Eric (left) and Dylan (right), is taken from the infamous Columbine High School cafeteria surveillance video.

School shootings were already a problem before 20 April 1999. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris knew that theirs had to stand out. So they planned to make every previous incident look insignificant, and they videotaped their boast so the world would know what they had set out to do.
And so they turned Columbine High School into an abattoir: murdering 13, wounding 24 other people and then, finally, killing themselves in a drama seen live on television.
It was not quite the 250 they had hoped to kill, but it was enough to make the incident the worst school shooting in American history.

This sudden eruption of violence in the middle of one of the most solidly upper middle class communities in America set off months of soul searching. Parents and school officials discussed the prevalence of violent music and video games. Parents asked: what are the warning signs that our children are turning out to be their own enemies? On their tapes, Klebold and Harris talk about anger management but not the expected kind. Rather, they were learning to ratchet up their anger and yet keep it secret from everyone else -- until the day they had to turn it on full blast.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Real Life, Amidst Chaos (Lebanon)

This photo (shot by Spencer Platt) shows a group of young Lebanese driving through a South Beirut neighborhood devastated by Israeli bombings. Taken on 15 August 2006, the first day of the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah when thousands of Lebanese started returning to their homes." World Press Photo jury chair Michele McNally describes the winning image: "It's a picture you can keep looking at. It has the complexity and contradiction of real life, amidst chaos. This photograph makes you look beyond the obvious."

Those in the picture are: The driver- Jad Maroun; his sister Tamara, the blond girl sitting in the front; his other sister, Bissan sitting in the back of the car; Liliane Nacouzi - held a tissue to her face in the winning picture because of the fumes from the fires still burning in the rubble. Nour Nasser is hidden behind Liliane.

Four of the young people in the group are actually residents of the area and had to flee during the shelling. This was the first time they returned to the suburbs and they were eager to check on their apartment and their belongings. All the people in the picture, were displaced by the war and were put up by their employers in the same hotel in the centre of Beirut, where they became friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Famine in Niger (Niger)

The fingers of malnourished one-year old Alassa Galisou are pressed against the lips of his mother Fatou Ousseini at an emergency feeding clinic in the town of Tahoua in Northwest Niger, 1 August 2005.
Taken while covering a devastating drought, the worst there in decades, that left millions of people without food in August 2005, Canadian photographer, Finbarr O'Reilly was himself feverish and resting when he saw little Alassa's hand reach out from his mother's lap and rest on her nose. 

Finbarr O’Reilly is the Reuters chief photographer for West and Central Africa and is based in Dakar, Senegal. He has been working full-time as a photojournalist for Reuters for less than two years when he  won the World Press Photo of the Year award in February 2006.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Misery in Darfur (Sudan)

It's an image which depicts a depressed, shoulders-down figure of a child in a cluster of what remains of her family.
The very weather-beaten arm of her mother goes over her left shoulder and there are the very small weather-beaten hands of the child, who is about five or six, clinging on to this one piece of security that she has, which is the weather-beaten hand of her mother.
The mother is not in the image, she's in the background. But then slightly further in the background you see the other hands of her brothers and sisters as they wait in this villa
Taken by Marcus Bleasdale.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Flames of Hate (South Africa)

On 18 May 2008 Halden Krog was covering the xenophobic violence that had been sweeping South Africa.
Photographers had been working day and night as bands of thugs terrorized settlements - beating, stabbing and torching the homes of residents whose only crime was being a "foreigner" while the politicians and leaders were silent - none of them standing up to condemn what was happening. 

It was late afternoon when Krog heard  that someone had been set alight in Ramaphosa (east of Johannesburg). At the scene, he saw Mozambican national Ernesto Nhamwuave struggling beneath a burning mattress as emergency service workers and police tried to extinguish the flames. 

Upon publication, outrage swept across a nation that we were once again seeing intolerance and brutality that many believed should have remained in the country’s Apartheid past. 

During the late eighties and early nineties, South Africans had become desensitized to endless images of violence and by the time of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 people were only too ready to believe him when he said: "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another." But 14 years later the nation was seeing it repeated. 

Nhamwuave died in hospital later that afternoon. His body was transported to his home in Mozambique.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Palestinian Woman Pleads with Soldier (Lebanon)

World Press Photo of the Year: 1976

Françoise Demulder took this photograph of Palestinian refugees in the Beirut district of La Quarantaine, Lebanon in January 1976.
She was the first woman to win the World Press Photo, and did so on the 20th anniversary of the award. Demulder stated at the time that she hated war, but felt compelled to document how it’s always the innocent who suffer, while the powerful get richer and richer.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Betty Grable (USA)

Grable’s million-dollar legs were the subject of the most-seen pinup sent to ease the suffering of American troups during World War II.
Betty's ingratiating freshness and beauty appealed strongly to the American G.I.s stationed overseas and her films were eagerly requested by the lonely servicemen. . . . Although she never toured outside the United States for the U.S.O., Betty actively participated in War efforts, appearing at Camps across the country and at Bond Rallys where she auctioned off her nylons for thousands of dollars.
Volunteering at the Hollywood Canten, a club for servicement staffed entirely by film stars and studio workers, she 'Jitterbugged' the night away with hundreds of soldiers, sailors and marines".
She married bandleader Harry James July 5, 1943. A popular GI slogan during the war became " I want a girl just like the girl that married Harry James."
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