Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Walking back to my car after covering a Memorial Day ceremony I took this photo of Charlie Norton giving a kiss goodbye the grave of his wife Betty Jean who is buried in the Little Arlington section of the Tracy Public Cemetery. I don't think this photo ran, the editors were a little leery about the emotions in the photo but I think it says so much I can't help but like it.
Yes I felt bad about taking it, one of the many photos I've taken that have given me pause to think about the effect it may have on the subject and others. It is a hard thing to have to juggle emotions, news value and my own sense of a moral compass on assignment then make the decision in just a second. I chose to take the picture and even though I have had some twinges of second guessing my decision I think the photo speaks volumes.
I look at this photo and when I see the never ending love of a man for his wife. I see the dedication of my dad carrying for my mom in her illness. I see the memory we keep alive to those who have passed and I see a spirit that can't be shattered by loss no matter the distance.
I talked to Mr. Norton after I took the photo and he told me a story about "Fiddler's Green" a place where soldiers and those who have died can rest in peace among green hills and music as they never tire from their dancing. I wrote about our conversation here.
It has been a hard year for many of us. We lost community leaders including Tom Hawkins and Pinkie Phillips and I try to remember the last time I took their photos and what I said to them. I always wonder did I say the right thing, was I kind enough did I leave them better than when I found them. Personally it has been a hard time losing my uncle just days before Christmas this year and dealing with a family crisis for most of the year.
Everyone always says it is better if people die if they were suffering, I guess it is true, I would't want anyone to be in pain or to suffer. After my conversation with Mr. Norton I came to hope there really is a place like Fiddler's Green where weary souls or those in pain can find comfort in the music of another life. I think about that a lot in times like this.
It may not be the most exciting image but the message and story of this photo tis the world to me. In my photo files I named this photo Fiddler's Green and when I'm feeling down about things or thinking that road ahead is too hard and filled with pain I think about the story of Fiddler's Green and things just don't seem as bad. One moment in time, one image, one story and so much to tell.
Monday, December 26, 2011
One assignment this year stood out as the saddest moment of the year to cover behind the camera. Under a cloudy November sky the name of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David P. Senft was unveiled on the Tracy War Memorial marking the latest casualty from
to die in the war against terrorism. Senft, a gunner onboard a Black Hawk helicopter shot himself at the Kandahar Air Base in Tracy during his fourth tour of duty. He was only 27-years-old. Afghanistan
We will never know the depths of pain and anguish that Staff Sgt. Senft was going through, nor do I wish to add to the pain and sorrow his family feels at his loss. It is tragic that a young man in service to his country could be so wounded physically or mentally and then neglected by the Army to the point that he took his own life.
Much has been said and debated about the decision to add the staff sergeant’s name to the Tracy War Memorial which honors those killed in the line of duty to their country. Most of those who voiced their opposition to adding his name did so cruelly and anonymously from behind their computers on the web comment section. Some showed their ignorance and contempt with obscene gestures. Who are they to judge Staff Sgt. Senft? They will never know the wounds he carried with him, visible or not. They will never know the pain and suffering he felt to the point where he took his own life. Most of us will never know the turmoil and terror of war and the effect that it can have on those who fight. Soldiers suffer and sacrifice so we can live our everyday lives and sometimes they don’t have anything left for themselves.
On Veterans Day the name of Staff Sgt. David P. Senft was placed on the black marble wall of the Tracy War Memorial. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the family to the memorial and in a very dignified ceremony the Senft’s name was unveiled. I have been to several of these ceremonies but the saddest moment of this day to me was when the flag covering the staff sergeant’s name was given to his 5-year-old son Landon.
Whenever I look at the photo I always wonder if Landon knows what happened to his father. I see him look at the letters of his fathers name on the flag and I hope he grows to understand one day that his father would have wanted to stay with him if he could have. The wounds ran too deep, the pain too much and a tragic ending to a short life.
I think the War Memorial Association made the right choice adding his name to the wall and applaud their decision in the face of the criticism. It was a sad day and one I don’t hope to repeat soon.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
It turns out that this is a 14-foot long fiberglass sculpture by artist David Hardy who was known for creating various sculptures of babies heads he would often leave around San Francisco. So the story goes he made this giant baby, left it with a friend then one day it is floating in a harbor next to a restaurant. Go figure, but it did make for a strange sight and I managed to grab a few quick frames from the raod as we headed home.