Congo and the Falling Man – two fantastic images and the stories behind

You’ve probably seen them already. This week, these two images have been all over the place. I’m talking about the images of two crying congolese girls and the Falling man.

Article about the Falling Man in Esquire

Article about the Falling Man in Esquire

Article about the Congolese girls

Article about the Congolese girls

The stories are very different (war in Congo and the September 11th attack in New York), but the two images and the accompanying stories have something in common in addition to extreme surroundings– photojournalism and journalism at its best.

Dagbladet made me aware of both the stories, but you have to go to the original source and read the real thing:

The story about how the photographer reunited the two small girls with their mother and grandmother in Kiwanja, Congo.
The Falling Man – the search for the identity of the vertical jumper, one of the seven greatest Esquire stories ever published.

I was in Washington DC during September 11, and could literally smell the Pentagon attack. I lived on the other side of the city, and stayed inside most of that day, glued to the Internet and TV, trying to get information about this inferno. Outside, the streets were packed with cars trying to escape from the city in case there would be another attack. When we went downtown that evening, the city looked like a war zone, with military tanks and police everywhere. It was impossible to get close to the White House, the whole city centre was blocked off .

Three days after September 11, on Friday 14th, I went to New York and wrote this article for Dagbladet about the heroes of New York (in Norwegian) together with Tine Ustad Figenschou, whom I didn’t know, but who became one of my best friends after that weekend.

I saw the falling men and women on TV. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I can hardly imagine what went through the minds of those men and women, but the Falling Man-article gives us an idea. It also explains why the incredible image shot by Richard Drew ran only once in most American newspaper. Journalist Tom Judd’s search for the identity of the Falling Man is one of the best pieces of journalism I’ve read in a long time.

Equally disturbing and very emotional is the image of the two Congolese girls, lost from their families by the horrible war going on in Congo. With two small kids myself, that image twisted my heart. It is amazing and releaving to read how Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay was able to find and reunite the two small, desperate girls with their mother and grandmother. In such a war-thorn country, you would not think that was possible, or that any journalist would take the risk to do that. I’m full of awe for the journalists situated in Congo now.

But the Congolese people are of course the ones suffering most right now. I’ve never been to Congo, but from what I’m reading in the news right now, it seems to be a living hell. In my eyes, it seems like the massacres in Sierra Leone and Rwanda are repeating themselves in Congo, with the international society unable to interact and stop it. It makes me sick.
I’ve read two brilliant but very disturbing books about Congo, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Adam Hochschild’s, “King Leopald’s Ghost”. They will not explain everything about what is going on in Congo today, but you will see how abundance of natural resources and people’s greed is fucking up Congo. History is indeed repeating itself.
Living in Belgium, a country with such colonial and bloody ties to Congo, reminds me every day that I should write an article about Belgium and Congo, and how the international society has not been able to prevent another Rwanda.

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