Warning: this is a sad and disturbing story.
Two years ago, Yves Eudes, a reporter for Le Monde, came to my house and interviewed me about freewayblogging. He was a younger man, in his thirties, good looking and somewhat reserved, almost shy, which for a reporter surprised me. As a political and war correspondent he'd been in Iraq three times since the invasion and I asked him what it was like. Specifically I wanted to know what he'd seen that he knew he would never forget. He told me this story, and I think about it whenever I feel like giving up.
"I was in Nasariyah and a couple came up to me on the street asking for help. They were carrying a large gym bag, an 'Adidas' bag, with their daughter inside. The city was in chaos, and they came up to me, I suppose, because I was a westerner and they thought I could help them. When I looked inside the bag there was a little girl, maybe two years old, with bandages around her head. There was a terrible smell and I thought to myself 'Okay, they have a dead girl...' The bandages were loose and soaked in fluid - it was a terrible wound, covering half her head. I guessed they'd gotten her to a hospital and they'd done what they could quickly and gave her back. It was the early days of the war and the hospitals were full. I couldn't believe it when I saw she was still alive."
"I took them to the Americans, and there was a woman soldier there, a big woman, who said there was nothing they could do... that it had to be a military casualty or something like that. I forget exactly. I want to say she was mean, but I don't know... more like she was just following her orders. She stood like this..." he said, and folded his arms across his chest.
"We went to a couple more soldiers, but it was the same. There was one young soldier who went for help, but then came back saying he couldn't do anything. I went with them for awhile longer, but it was obvious I was useless. Eventually they just went away."
We were sitting in my garage, surrounded by the tools of my trade: cardboard, paint, overhead projector. Outside it was a beautiful day: a warm, late afternoon in sunny southern California.
"It's hard to describe what they were like, the parents... they were beyond sad, beyond scared... they were doing the only thing they could do - looking for help - and I couldn't help feeling that I'd wasted their time. I don't know if I will ever forget their faces, or what it was like to see their little girl... but the thing I know I will never forget is the way they looked as they walked away, wandering the streets with their baby in that bag... just looking for someone who could help them."