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stefania mizaraphotojournalist

Gaza 2009..living in the darkness

I entered Gaza the 12th of January 2009 late in the evening with a group of doctors. It was my first time entering an active war zone and I was feeling kind of nervous.
The feeling of anxiety worsened as a sound of bomb dropping near the bus made us all in the “Gaza city” bus that is transferring people from Egyptian to Palestinian border fall under our seats.
The distance from the border of Rafa to the center of town is very small. By the time we arrived in the hospital, ambulances with the wounded people from the bomb that had dropped in the main market started arriving. The Greek and French doctors went directly to work. The feeling of human loss is unbearable. When the rush is over, your mind starts thinking of what the eyes have seen. Images of children, women, old people, young boys in blood, missing parts of their body, with crazy eyes come back but are rejected by the filter of logic. I think the human mind has the capacity of forgetting horror images such as these as it can’t bear them.
And then comes fear as sound of dropping bombs wake you up at night. After a while you get used to it, people were saying.
You actually do but only superficially.
You just learn to get back to sleep even thought anything can happen anywhere and there is no safe place to hide.

The next day Cuewa, an Irish girl from the Free Gaza movement arranged us to go to Gaza city with a convoy of 18 ambulances. “It is safer than any other vehicle” she said, “but still Israelis have already shot on ambulances and medics”.
We left at 9 o’clock at night, the ambulance loaded with one dead body of a young man to be carried to the Gaza morgue and the desolated brother of the dead man that didn’t speak though the whole trip.
Actually I didn’t speak either as I was wondering if this decision is my last one.
The details of arriving in a ghost city, passing some dead zones with tanks looking and targeting us was just the beginning of a week of fear.
The next day I spend it trying to understand how someone can move under these circumstances, where is what in this bombed city, how are things done. Even the easiest thing: buying bread was getting complicated: no exchange, no shops, no bread.
The next days I moved around with local press people from Ramattan television center and ambulances.
The heroes of this war were really these people: local journalists, medics and activists. The only humans moving around the city, specially after nightfall.
The nurses in the ambulances and the doctors were working 20 hours a day, sleeping in shifts in the hospitals.
The cameramen and reporters hadn’t seen their families for weeks.
The activists went with the ambulances wherever there was danger to be used as a human shield so the medics could pick up wounded or dead people from isolated areas.
I focused more on these people’s work as I preferred to see the hope and human force against horror than only death and despair.
I discovered things about me as well. I found out that in this question that is always asked to photographers and cameramen: do you take the picture or do you help the person that is suffering in front of you?
I thought I was in the first category but I am in the second one.

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