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Books Amidst Rubble

March 10, 2010

For context, this is a photograph of a boy saving a few books from the rubble of his home, a six-story apartment building which was bombed by the Israeli air force. The building was in the middle of a densely populated area in the city of Tyre. Three casualties were reported.

(Photo credit: Jeroen Oerlemans/Panos Pictures )

‘Dutch photojournalist Jeroen Oerlemans took this picture while reporting from Tyre, in southern Lebanon, during the 34-day summer war with Israel. “I was just returning from shooting the arrival of some humanitarian aid to the besieged town,” he recalls, “when, right in front of me, a five- or six-story building went up in smoke.” Oerlemans ran toward the wrecked building, where, he says, “I witnessed the first casualties being carried away from the scene. In the smoldering ruins, dazed people were stumbling around, some trying to get themselves together, others frantically pulling others from underneath the rubble.” An air alarm went off, indicating the Israeli bombers might return. “Everyone fled,” Oerlemans says. But this boy remained, “stoically” wandering through the smoke. “We never spoke,” the photographer recalls. “I’m not sure why he was picking up those books.”‘

I think this is a very powerful picture. It illustrates how, even in a war zone, a person (and in this case, a child) can brush away all the chaos to focus on what is really important to them personally. To the boy, the destruction seems distant in his mind. Amidst the rubble, all he can think about are those books.

I got this image from Foreign Policy\’s collection of work by the world\’s most acclaimed conflict photographers.

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