Wednesday, Jan. 20
I go out really early this morning to do a shoot with the correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America." They are looking for a spot close by that shows destruction.
I don’t know what "destruction" means for them. For me, it means simply walking out the door and seeing a house in pieces, seeing people, hundreds and hundreds of them, asleep in the middle of the street, in tents, in backs of trucks, in cars, in containers. It means sides of buildings gone, cars smashed.
But this is television and they want a dramatic visual, and the first two buildings I show them aren’t good enough. Not dramatic enough. I say nothing. What is there to say?
A few blocks down the hill, we find a spot suitable for the crew and correspondent. In the quiet of the dawn, as the light is just changing, the correspondent talks about a few improbable rescues that have happened in the last 24 hours.
A 15-day-old baby was found. That means that more than half the baby’s life was spent in rubble. Clearly, this baby was meant to live.
Another very unlikely rescue was a 67-year old woman found by the National Cathedral. The Cathedral was completely destroyed, leaving layer on layer of heavy blocks of cement. Yet this woman came out with few injuries.
I find solace in these stories and wonder about my own inner strength in such a situation.
A few weeks earlier, I was stuck in an elevator on my way to the 8th floor of an apartment building. Despite the fact that there were very specific instructions about what to do – and I did them – I still got short of breath and had to sit down. I balled up in a corner and closed my eyes, told myself that this was ridiculous and I’d be out in no time. It was about 20 minutes before the door was pried open, but it felt a lot longer.
So what must it have been like to be stuck in rubble, have no one to call, have nowhere to move? To be in the dark, without food and water. To not know if the people you were with the moment the floor went out from under you were alive or dead? What kind of inner courage did each of these victims have that allowed them to survive?
I think about these things as I listen to the correspondent talk about the miracle recoveries. But I still smell death in the air, and it stays with me even as I get back into the comfort of our vehicle, roll up the window, and drive back up the hill to our home base.
The sun has just come up.