Monday, March 26, 2012

Out The Window

There is a reason somewhere that explains the number of children I photograph that end up going out a window, normally more than one story high, until such answers are found, I try do the job without being judgmental. Trust me, the less judgmental you are, the less gut wrenching stress you will walk around with.

It was a rainy night in the city of Angels when another call to photograph a child in a pediatric intensive care unit came in. Storms of magnitude are rare in the basin because it is protected by a ring of mountains. The weather has to come in just in the right direction to leave any rainfall at all. The conditions for a child to go out a window seem to be limitless however, the last one was a mystery at the time I took the first pictures. My hope of getting there, doing a few photos and getting back to the lab in just a few minutes went out the window when the team working with the boy had to install another tube. I had a nice chat with the attending officers and quickly ran out of things I wanted to say and questions they wanted to ask. The training from the veteran to the rookie continued and in overhearing that I learned that the people, including the mother, were beginning to change their stories. They were starting to get them to match. Inconsistent stories being told to officers is quite common. I finally got to the boy. He was on life support with its many tubes and wires. I could barely get a clear shot of his face and the wound on it. The nurse helped me get a photo of his leg. I floated a quick hope and a prayer and left. He was in the best of care after falling four stories, I did not ask onto what, that always makes a difference.

Two years before two children had fallen out of a window of a similar hight. As I pulled up many news vans were leaving in a hurry to cover a fire. The situation was like a lot of ones I come across. The kids were playing, too rough for indoors. Their bed was at or above the height of the lower window sill. No protection besides a screen for bugs kept them from going right out. I don't blame them for zipping around a small apartment bedroom. They lived among many other apartment buildings, safe open space is hard to get too. What space their was between two huge buildings of two huge apartment complexes was difficult to walk along, it's narrow nature was in this case life saving. Maintenance crews had just finished raking up debris and leaves after tree trimming. The piles of small branches and leaves were up too my shoulders and hard to get over. We finally got to the spot and pile that was directly below the window clearly visible by the pushed out screen. For once a pending lawsuit forcing a landlord to trim the trees was a true blessing. The news vans had left to cover a fire, more interesting than two children who were going to be okay.

Downtown just outside skid row and before the expensive dwellings begat by the Staples Center are old fashioned apartments. I like them personally. The floors are of thick wood, they were made in an era when a communal bathroom worked well because the times of gentility were in full swing. Sure, it had always been the lower downtown area but at a time when living was without so many wires. A public library was to so many as video kiosks and internet are to us now. People were more decent to each other. Windows started just above the floor in the small living spaces. They were of a generous size, you could walk through one if it were a door. I have never seen one with more than just a screen for bugs on it. That day what the detectives could figure a young father was playing with his small child. They played the game of bounce the child by pouncing on the bed. Getting lost in the euphoria and having no idea of control the detectives surmised the little one jumped during a bounce just outside the young fathers reach. He still had the horror of what happened showing through his face, demeanor, and body posture. Interviews with neighbors and the rest of their assessment added up to an accident. I got ready to leave. A senior detective said that they would follow up with the young man later. Then he might have the courage to tell the truth about what happened. We went outside to a fall day, the kind that just after a rain makes the city feel clean. I began to wonder if the life lessons the job provided might be of use to someone else one day.

Some time before these cases I tossed my judge-mentality out of the window. Then through it fresh air and light came in. I open that window when I need to, all the guards are in place, there is no screen.


  1. Harry,

    "Windows started just above the floor in the small living spaces."

    This is also true to old authentic Japanese houses.

    I liked the following sentences:
    "Some time before these cases I tossed my judge-mentality out of the window. Then through it fresh air and light came in."

  2. Beautiful and horrible

    You captured this so well, my brother.