Virginia Tech revisited

Six months after 32 people were gunned down in a campus building at Virginia Tech, I was commissioned with writer Ariel Leve to visit the university. She wrote an excellent story for the Sunday Times Magazine Some of my photographs are below. Plans must already be underway for a Tuscon, Arizona memorial. More than places of remembrance, memorials encourage closure and seem to announce by their presence, never again. But of course there will be another Columbine and another Virginia Tech and another Tuscon, Arizona, and knowing that, looking at these pictures again, I realize how perfectly the memorial melted into the landscape. What remained out of place and thoroughly unhinged, were the survivors. Photographs ©Nina Berman/NOOR. All rights reserved.

Hate speech and the Arizona massacre

Gabrielle Giffords, a democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was gun downed while speaking to constituents on a street corner in Tuscon January 8. Six others, including a 9 year old girl, were killed and 14 were wounded. A 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughney was arrested. For a peek into the politics of hate and vitriol that surrounded her re-election campaign, see a video of the Tuscon Tea Party rally held October 2010 featuring Gifford’s opponent and former marine Jesse Kelly.

At 1.20 minutes Kelly says: ” Liberty is what we believe in this country. These people that think they’re better than us that look down on us every single day, tell us what kind of health care to buy, they take over industries, and if you dare to stand up to the government, they call us a mob. We’re about to show them what a mob looks like on November 2.” Later he asks the crowd ” Aren’t you sick of having people spit in your face everyday?” Kelly also held a campaign event where he invited people to “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” Kelly was endorsed by Sarah Palin who put a symbol of a rifle scope’s cross hairs around Giffords. No one can say what drove Loughney to murder, or at what moment, rhetoric leads to action. But the pieces are all in play and have been seen before in the killings of abortion providers — a combination of readily available weapons — Loughney’s gun was legally purchased — and a constant stream of publicly sanctioned hate filled speech which encourages a sense of righteousness, entitlement and victimhood.

Salee Allawe – Collateral Damage

On November 7, 2006 in Hasswa, Iraq, nine-year old Salee Allawe was playing hopscotch outside her home with her brother, cousin and some friends when US mlitary jets fired three missiles, apparently at passenger vehicles. One missile landed where the children were playing, killing Salee’s brother and cousin and taking both of Salee’s legs. Cole Miller, one of the most dedicated humanitarians I have met, and founder of nomorevictims.org, arranged for Salee and her father to go to Greenville, South Carolina where volunteers cared for her and doctors fitted her with a new pair of legs. I photographed her trip there in 2007. Salee’s now a young woman, has outgrown those legs and needs to return. Here are some photos of Salee three years ago and information about her on the NoMoreVictims website. All photos © Nina Berman. The entire story can be seen at NOOR Images