20 -22 Seconds



Something has been bugging me all day.  I can’t get it off my mind.  So true to form I will write it out and then decide whether to hit the publish button.

I make it a habit to watch The Today Show most days. I think I do it because I remember my Daddy always watching it.  I have my little morning routine—-wake up, feed the cats, get coffee, lounge in bed with laptop and tv tuned to The Today Show and catch up on what I missed overnight. This morning was the normal morning.  Not exciting but it is what I do.

If you have watched the news lately you have probably seen the reports of the horrible incident that happened in the New York subway  — two men got into some kind of altercation and then one pushed the other onto the tracks and in the path of the oncoming train.  He did not survive.  It was pretty horrible.  No one helped him. A photographer saw what was happening and started to take pictures.  He was on The Today Show this morning ( I give him credit for doing that as I don’t think “I” would have) and the two interviewers, Matt and Savannah, tore into him. At least I thought they did.  The man is taking a lot of heat for his actions or as some see it his inaction. He stated that he was running, taking pictures so his flash would go off to try to alert the conductor of the train to the situation that was unfolding.  There were others around.  No one else helped.  The time from when the guy landed on the tracks to when the train took his life was something like 20-22 seconds. Not a lot of time but also an eternity.  Think about it. What can you accomplish in 20 seconds?

I keep trying to figure out what upset me the most when I watched that interview this morning.  Was it the probing questions that they asked relentlessly accusing this man of not doing enough?  Was it the tone?  Was it that they were trying to insinuate that the photographer was taking these pictures in anticipation of a big payoff? Was it because later on in the show they did a ridiculous “report” on a supposed inappropriate action by one of the newer co hosts, Willie?   Was it that I have been mad at them ever since they got rid of Ann Curry???  I don’t know.  But it has rankled me today.  I am doubting my allegiance to watching The Today Show.

I think everyone who saw this story wishes that there had been a hero. They wished that the photographer, Mr.R. Umar Abbasi would have been that hero.  There were no heroes on that platform that day.  Who knows what any one of us would have done given that situation?   Would we have stayed rooted to our spots unable to move to offer assistance?  Would we have taken videos of that poor man as CPR was performed?  Would we have been scared?  Would we have run to assist?  I honestly don’t think that anyone of us would ever be able to predict how we would respond in that situation.

Today I offer a prayer up for Mr.Ki-Suk Han’s family and friends.  I hope and pray if I had been there during that 20-22 seconds I would have been able to have helped in some way.  Here is a link to the article from The Today Show—I would love to hear your feedback on this.


  1. I agree with you – until you find yourself in a situation you really never know how you will react… I do want to believe regardless of what I would have done if i was on that platform I wouldn’t have been taking pictures of him… While this picture became news, he wasn’t the only one that was snapping pictures… that to me is the saddest part… Someone was dying and people were more concerned with capturing their photo op…

    • I know—the sad part is that folks were snapping photos and videos. I hope with all my heart that the photographer in question here was actually doing what he reported he was doing . I just was so taken with the way they hounded him for “the story” and then later had a ridiculous made up piece on the show that was frivolous . Go figure.

  2. This is going to be a long response. But bear with me, because I found myself in a somewhat (although certainly not as serious) situation more than a year ago.

    I was writing in my office one Saturday afternoon, camera an arm’s reach away, when my son screamed, “The neighbor’s house is on fire!”

    I grabbed my camera, ran to the window, saw the fire around the deck and an unidentified man running for a garden hose. My neighbor’s car was parked in the driveway.

    I raced barefoot out the front door and across the side street. My neighbors were nowhere in sight and I started screaming for them to get out of the house as flames shot up, blocking the front door into their home.

    In that moment, my first concern was making sure Kevin, Kristin and their two children were safely out. I could have photographed that initial scene of flames shooting up and around the deck. But I didn’t start photographing until I saw Kristin and her daughter come around the corner, via an exit into the garage. They told me they were the only two at home.

    At that point, I started shooting the scene of the passerby hosing the last embers of the fire. I also photographed the firemen when they arrived.

    Shortly after, I posted about this on my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog. Here’s a link to that initial post: http://mnprairieroots.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/the-neighbors-house-is-on-fire/

    Two days later, the story was picked up by Minnesota Public Radio as the search was on for the passerby, dubbed “Ted from Owatonna.” I had asked for his name before he left the fire scene, and he would only tell me he was “Ted from Owatonna.”

    Anyway, I was criticized by at least one MPR reader for photographing the scene and not putting out the fire. With only one hose, and that being used by Ted, there was nothing I could have done. I also did not begin shooting pix until I knew the family was safe.

    Apparently the reader did not read that part of the story closely enough. Let me tell you, that hurts to think that someone would think I would not do whatever I could to help in a situation like this.

    I understand that freelance photographer’s natural instinct to photograph. That’s the journalist in him, just as the journalist in me responded that Saturday afternoon.

    So often we (including me) too quickly judge…

    • Thanks for sharing that, Audrey! I agree with you, I really do. Chris’s uncle was a photographer and had a similar thing happen with a drowning. He suffered a lot of negative public outrage because he had acted on his natural instinct and had photographed the event after it had happened. It followed him the rest of his life and in my humble opinion it was his job. I am sure it hurts to know that others judge without knowing that there was nothing you could do other than what you did—-we can never ever know what it is to be in someone else’s shoes at times like this and I guess I choose to think, even if misguided, that there is good in all of us and that if at all possible we would act in the best possible way when placed in difficult situations like this. Thanks again—so good to read your comment today!

      • It is easy to slip into the place of judging and I know you don’t, Beth Ann. Your care and concern and compassion define you and shine in your written words. Those are your gifts to the world.

        What a difficult situation for Chris’ uncle. But I totally understand his natural instinct, as a photographer, to take those photos.

        • Ah–that was sweet!! I am just trying to live my life the way I think I am supposed to–given what the Good Book tells us. I fall short many times but it is good to realize that!!! 🙂

      • Kristi @ Transformed As Clay says:

        Both of these situations (and even the one in the post) bring to mind the story of the photographer who photographed a starving child who was being stalked by a vulture. Whether or not that photographer (Kevin Carter) was in the right or the wrong, many think he was doing his job and also…doing what photojournalists were taught to do at that time. He received a lot of flack for that photograph, for thinking like a photographer…I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of whether he, particularly, should have reacted differently to the particular scene but the judgement we all place on people is very real in all of these situations.

        I think the best we can do is hope that we would react well, and be helpful or compassionate or whatever is needed when and if we find ourselves in such situations. If he was running trying to catch the attention of the conductor, as he says, then was he even close enough to have done something before the train met the man? I don’t think it is fair that he is attacked, simply because he happens to have proof that he was there, but the rest of the nameless who were likely in shock are blameless? And I don’t think its fair that his morality is being attacked, no one but him and God know what was going on in his mind and in his heart in those moments.

        Sorry for the long response. The long and short of it is that, like you said, none of us can know how we will react. We can simply hope we will be useful. And if we are not, it makes us nothing but human.

        • Kristi– thanks so much for your comment! It means a lot that you took the time.you made a lot of great points and I think it is so hard to imagine how we would react in different situations. I remember the photos you reference and the backlash that photographer endured. I try not to pretend that my views are always right or the only ones. That is why I wanted to hear reactions from others on this— to see the other perspectives. Thanks again!

  3. John W. Kennedty says:

    Beth, having been a news person for many years, I understand the frustration. However, the photographer was doing what he was trained to do, take photos. Had he not been there to record this event none of us would be commenting because we would not have known what happened. Sometimes there are just no heros, which (in some ways) makes us all feel like victims. Thanks for your blog; it does make us think. Regards, John

    • Good perspective, John. I think what bothered me most was the way the journalists were doing the interview but they like the photographer were doing their job. It is definitely not a black/white issue and there are no tight or wrong answers, right?

  4. Joanna graham says:

    Oh Beth I am so upset about the way they handled this interview as well . It was almost as If they were accusing the photographer of killing the victim. I have been in situations similar to that in the hospital setting and some people freeze and are shocked,stunned and can’t believe what is happening right before their eyes. I think he thought quickly of something to alert the train that something was wrong and there was absolutely no intention of making money at the time. For people to say that “he was thinking of money” just makes me furious to no end
    I could ramble on and on about this but I think you get my thoughts

    • I got you, Joanna!!! I am sure that you have seen a lot in your hospital setting and who can say what they would do given the circumstances??? You just don’t know!!!! Thanks for your thoughts!!

  5. Miranda Gargasz says:

    I think it’s hard to say what we’d do in any circumstance. We all have a natural fight or flight response that kicks in. We don’t consciously do it. It’s an impulse. When there are only seconds to react, no one except the two involved should be held accountable for their actions.

  6. Only the people on the platform know if anything could have been done. I do think running the photo on the front page with that caption was in poor taste.

  7. The Today Show and every other media outlet has a nerve to persecute and/or condemn the photographer for his actions,(although I don’t agree with his pursuit of the photo, rather than assisting a man is such a critical situation) because after all, they are the ones,(the media in general) who are constantly asking the public to send in photos or videos of events happening around you? This just took Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, to a lower level.

    • I love your response, Jake—it is a hot topic and it just had me wondering what I would have done in that situation. I hope that I would help if ever in a position to help in a crisis but one never knows!

  8. Thanks for bringing this up Beth Ann, I missed this up here in Canada. I would have been appalled by this if I had been there, I know, but would I have been able to help? I would like to think so. Having been a dispatcher for a volunteer fire department, my first instinct is to act. I get the “saving” done & then fall apart later from all the adrenaline in my system.

    • Love that you react and then fall apart later!!! I am sure you would have reacted in this case!!! it just made me sad, you know, to think that it was a needless death.

  9. All right

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