I am at work. I’m a scientist. I’m a professional. My job is not to sit here writing down my feelings. I work with databases and it’s about as unemotional as it comes. Yet I’m compelled to write this now because I’m fighting back tears and there’s an uncomfortable, sickening feeling in my chest and a lump in my throat that won’t go away.
You know the one. My office has large glass windows, and the IT guy is looking at me and pretending not to notice my red eyes. You see, I am a professional, but I’m also a mother. Today I don’t want to push the emotion away and move on back to my comfortable space. And the catalyst is a dead child’s pink pyjamas.
It started during a few moments of procrastination this morning – a quick check of my twitter feed. A link to an article on the recent massacre in Houla* appeared. It interested me because I’ve been ruminating on whether social media is really useful in generating not just social awareness but real social change, e.g. Kony-style campaigns.
I also clicked on it above other links to articles in my short space of procrastination time because I, like many others, have been horrified, disgusted and, if I am truly honest, morbidly fascinated, with how on earth this type of massacre involving so many children killed at close range could occur.
Within this excellent article was a reference to the “gutsy front page” of The Independent on Sunday, a British tabloid newspaper. This drew me to open the link to the online front page of that paper, and then seek out the article and photograph the chilling headline refers to.
As the front page of the newspaper clearly warns, the image is really distressing. Of course, it is not the worst incident I have seen in a photograph, because unfortunately through history massacres of men, women and children have happened on a far larger scale.
But what this picture did to me was personal. You see, the small girl lying dead on the left of the picture is wearing pink pyjamas. They are almost identical to the ones my own 4 year old daughter was wearing last night. Those pyjamas bring that small lifeless body into my own living room. And because of that I make myself look properly at the photograph, and all of the children. I don’t skim over it because it’s too hard to look at, as I usually might. I make myself look into the lifeless staring eyes of the dead children. I really see their blood-smattered legs and feet and their horrific wounds. It’s intimate, and so it becomes real.