In Kashmir, After the Quake, 'Nothing'

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By Andrea Bruce
Washington Post Photographer
Sunday, December 18, 2005

Post photographer Andrea Bruce arrived in the Kashmir region of Pakistan shortly after the massive earthquake on Oct. 8 that killed at least 73,000 people and left 3 million without adequate shelter. She kept a record of what she saw both photographically and in a diary, which is excerpted here:

Every home lost someone. Whoever happened to be in the house at the time. Most seem to be women. . . .

I've seen children sitting on the rubble of their house, all alone, attempting to lift blocks and pull at metal bars. . . .

No one shows sympathy for their neighbors. Everyone has suffered. Rebuild. Tedious and numbing. Physically exhausting. People stare ahead at nothing. . . . Finish what they are doing. . . . Like a dream. I think I sometimes have the same stare.

The earthquake hit at school time. . . . In one minute. Some say a lost generation. . . .

It takes time to dig people out of heavy concrete-poured buildings. The villagers work tirelessly. Pakistanis from the surrounding small towns are arriving. Many came by climbing on passing trucks -- sometimes 50 a load. They aren't emergency workers or NGOs [nongovernmental organization workers]. Just normal people carrying nothing but a blanket to keep warm while they dig. Today I saw a man use a rusted metal ruler to dig out a survivor -- cutting wires and all. . . .

In the mountains the aid wasn't coming to them, so they had to come to the aid. Carrying dead and injured on beds they hiked through landslides. Trails that no longer exist. . . .

And when they arrived in Balakot, all that was waiting for them was an open field near the river. Crawling with people who have suffered the same fate. Helicopters finally came. The injured no longer cried. Most tears are for the survivors. For those who are realizing, like I have, that we can't control death.

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