Monday, September 08, 2008


Readers of The Miami Herald got a sobering dose of reality Monday morning as they unfolded the paper and looked at page one.

It was hard to miss. Right there, above the fold, a four column photograph by Herald photojournalist Patrick Farrell; as gripping and shocking as anything I've ever seen in the Herald in five decades.

Patrick is in Haiti with with Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the fourth storm to ravage Haiti this year. The lede of Charles's dispatch is powerful and heart wrenching:

"CABARET, Haiti -- Frantz Samedi had searched for his 5-year-old for two hours, trudging through heaps of storm debris and muddy water, calling her name, ``Tamasha, Tamasha!''

When he finally found her, she seemed to be peacefully asleep, her body resting on the wet, mud-laden concrete slab next to 11 other children, ages 1 to 8.

Farrell's searing image of the grieving father clutching the lifeless body of his 5-year-old daughter punctuates Charles's words. No parent can look at the photograph without feeling a connection.

Farrell, a Herald photographer for 21 years, is also a father. He called his wife Jodi from Haiti to tell her that their two daughters weren't far from his mind as he photographed the hellish scenes of death. She shares her observations here.

In a country where so many have so little - more than half of Haitians live on less than $1 a day - the magnitude of Frantz Samedi's loss is incomprehensible.

As far as I can tell, the Herald is one of the few major media outlets to have a team in Haiti.

The Washington Post printed wire service copy in Monday's editions, combining information about destruction in both Cuba and Haiti. The New York Times had a staff report on page A6 with a Miami dateline.

I emailed Farrell tonight and asked him if he had any thoughts on what he'd seen and the images he made. He responded:

"I don't know what to say...There are [other] images that the Herald felt (with good reason) were probably too shocking for the paper (but are jarring and the types of images that I believe make people react.) I've always felt that everywhere you turn in Haiti there's a photograph that MUST be seen, and this latest tragedy just reinforces that...the people here do not deserve this, they suffer terribly just dealing with everyday life."

South Florida residents and Herald readers will no doubt find ways to help this ravaged nation as they have in the past.

But how long will it be before they wipe the memory of Pat Farrell's images and Jacqueline Charles's words from their consciouness?

I posed that question to freelance photographer Brian Smith, a former Herald staff photographer who made some 13 trips to Haiti over a period of six years beginning with the final days of the Duvalier government. Smith writes:

"It's hard to believe that a country with the abject poverty of Haiti can exist in this hemisphere, just a two hour flight from Miami. It's sad to see a country where eight million people with so little - have the little they do have taken away from them. It's even sadder to realize that the attention span of the American public rarely lasts longer than the [TV] sound bites and then the poorest country in our hemisphere is once again forgotten."

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