In every disaster that I’ve covered, there’s usually one image that gets stuck in my mind; one person I can’t stop thinking about. In Haiti, it was an old woman in a field of white, crumpled cement that used to be her neighborhood; in Sri Lanka after the Asian tsunami, it was a naked body being scooped up gently by backhoe; in Fukushima, it was a school hit by the tsunami where only the kids on the upper floors survived.
In Tacloban, it was a young woman standing in the moonlight clutching a tarp. The United Nations’ refugee agency was passing out plastic sheeting from the back of a tractor trailer. A growing crowd swirled around the truck. The neighborhood had been almost entirely washed out to sea. The relief workers were trying to give tarps to women first, but the crowd was jostling to try to get closer to the truck. Fires burned in the background. This woman was standing off to the side watching. She’d lost her house, her husband and her three kids in the storm.
She didn’t sob. She didn’t wail. Her face seemed emotionless. And then the moonlight illuminated the tears on her cheek, betraying her stoicism.
Photographs by David Gilkey/NPR
Top: A boy stands in the ruins of the leveled a neighborhood in Tacloban. Food and water supplies were almost nonexsistent in the days immediately after the storm.
Middle: Filipino coroners examine the rotting remains of bodies left at a makeshift morgue outside Tacloban’s City Hall.
Bottom: A man dives into the ruins of a cigarette warehouse trying to find dry packs to sell on the streets in San Jose.