Today at approximately 3:00 pm a black Cadillac SUV traveling westbound on Turk Street attempted a u-turn at the intersection of Turk and Chabot next to the USF Lone Mountain campus, the SUV collided head on with a Nissan Pathfinder, also black, traveling eastbound on Turk. The Pathfinder deflected to the right side of the street, smashed two mail boxes off their mounting and proceeded to hit two pedestrians, and crash into a house, pinning one elderly woman under the Vehicles, and a college aged Asian male (non-USF student) against the building. The older woman later died, and the young man remains in a serious condition at the hospital.
The young man was standing on the corner of the intersection distributing promotional fliers for a jeans sale held by his LA based company. The man and a coworker had flown up from LA and were attaching the fliers to cars around campus when the accident occurred. Nothing is known about the deceased woman.
I heard what sounded like squealing tires followed by a crash, from a third story room of the USF Harney Science Center located one block from the accident, where my math class was winding down for the day around 3 pm. Several minutes later I looked out the window to see the street full of police cars and ambulances. Police officers were beginning to rope off an area around the crash. I quickly rushed down to the Foghorn office, passing my co-worker Bobby Lee on the way, he was rushing to the scene of the crash with his video camera, I grabbed my camera and ran after him up the hill to the bottom of the Lone Mountain steps where the accident took place. When I arrived, I saw the Pathfinder partially inside the wall of the house on the eastern corner of the intersection, with debris scattered around, two large post office boxes were on their sides, and police and students were everywhere. I made my way through the crowd to Turk street, and say a line of 6 or 7 police cars, in total there were probably 12 rescue vehicles around. Traffic was blocked going eastbound on Turk but the westbound lane remained open. There were no bodies or injured people left on the scene when I arrived, just a bunch of onlookers and freaked-out looking witnesses who had been herded into a garage and later would be interviewed by the accident investigators. I spoke with the young man from LA whose friend had been hit, and also spoke with a camera man and some other witnesses and pieced together what happened. Later I listened and took pictures as the police spokesman gave an official statement.
The entire time I was at the scene, the drivers of both vehicles were kept in separate police cars. A police officer shielded them from the view of the press, however I was informed by witnesses and friends of the drivers that they were both USF students. As I snapped photographs of the police car that contained one driver, his friend got angry and asked me to stop. I took one last photo and moved away, mostly because I got the shot I needed, but also because I felt bad and did not want to get involved in a conflict with him.
On a more general note, I feel strongly that it is the responsibility of journalists, photographers, filmers, bloggers, exc., to get the story. It may be hard, people may not like you, they may hate you, but that is your job, even more, it is your duty at a journalist to get the shot and to share it with the world. If a president does something bad, he may hate you for intruding and taking a picture, but it is your job, and also it is the right of the world to have access to that story. How many images have you seen of a child or parent holding a loved one who has just died in a war zone from a bomb or gun wound or other act? That person must have hated the journalist who took their photo in their darkest of hours, but I believe that the information it conveys to the masses is more important than the apparent insensitivity shown by the photographer at the moment. Thus it can be the hardest job to be a photographer, but what we do is important, information is power. Please know that I am not defending the paparazzi, or other celebrity photographers, they are profiting and making peoples lives miserable for a purely economic gain, the information they provide is frankly garbage. I am defending the acts of dedicated responsible news photo-journalists who are strong enough to remain objective in the face of an extremely emotional event so that the world may understand, and learn and comment and as is our hope, work toward changing what went wrong so the future is brighter.
This photo from last weeks the week in pictures from msnbc.com is a perfect example of what I am talking about. This is war, this is tragedy, its terrible, but should we not take these pictures? Should we not show these photos? Should we not talk and discuss these photos? Will images like these not force us to accept what is REAL and what IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW in the world, and prompt us to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? Or, of course we could always live censored lives, because it is not appropriate or sensitive or "nice" to collect this kind of news.