"My hands, my hands!" is the most heartbreaking voices that I have ever heard. When the plane suddenly stopped after crazily dashing forward for a few seconds, all sorts of screaming, howling, groaning, and crying broke out in the cabin. Everyone was in shock, in pain and in terror. Such sound, along with the wreckage of the overhead compartments, breaking luggage, and falling chairs, turned the cabin into a genuine hell. I could hardly breathe. A strong white smoke began to permeate, indicating a burning fire, and an imminent explosion. Everything might perish at once.
At that critical point, I heard the Chinese teenage girls who were sitting behind me crying "My hands, my hands!" They were screaming in Chinese in their youthful and high-pitched voices. When I was able to stand up and escape from my seats, I saw the girls. Their hands were trapped and injured by our seats that fell back during the crash. Obviously, they were crouching over to protect themselves from falling luggage and dashing objects, but now they were bent and trapped, unable to move. My heart was broken. My mind struggled, debating whether I should stop to help them, but regrettably, my feet moved on. I was proved no hero.
Fortunately, the plane did not explode. And those girls were saved after I escaped. But their voices stayed with me, maybe forever. "My hands" thus had become part of my trauma. When I saw a sculpture of hands in the art department lobby at Stanford in October, the voices rang in my ear. Hence, the above shot.
Both I and those girls were lucky. We survived. But not everyone has. The plane broke apart at row 42, and killed the girls on that row. Three young Chinese girls were thrown out of the plane, perished. They were sitting only three rows behind me. I could not remember their looks, but they were all from China, all in middle school, and all sitting so close to me. It could be me.
I cannot help thinking about these deceased girls. It is hard not to think about them over and over again. It could be me. Those girls were so young, and they could still be in school, in games, and in hope. Between the worlds of the living, and the worlds of the once lived, was only three rows of seats. All of this, as a recent NTSB report shows, was caused by terrible negligence and a pair of badly trained hands. Those two worlds are not as seemingly far apart. The distance is narrow.
Over the last few months, I was constantly drawn to photograph kids, and to photograph death. A strange combination of interests for many, but so natural for me. In an old cemetery in Menlo Park, we found a section of tomb sites devoted to deceased kids. Toys, angels, and tombstones. Joy, peace, and Sadness.
My hands, my hands.
With my hands and a camera, I present this photo series called "Between Worlds".