AP pho­tog­ra­pher re­flects on 13 years cov­er­ing Rio shoot­ings

South Florida Times - - OBITUARIES - By As­so­ci­ated Press Don’t bring up other peo­ple’s losses: Don’t say… • Re­fer to the deceased by name: Keep in touch with the be­reaved: • Help make ar­range­ments or do chores: • En­cour­age the fam­ily to plan a me­mo­rial: If it is ap­pro­pri­ate, en­cour­age the lo

SIL­VIA IZQUIERDO

RIO DE JANEIRO — It’s of­ten said the birth of a child changes your life. Cov­er­ing the shoot­ing deaths of chil­dren in re­cent months amid a wave of vi­o­lence in Rio de Janeiro, I have re­al­ized from the pain of griev­ing par­ents that los­ing one prob­a­bly changes you even more.

I be­gan work­ing as a pho­tog­ra­pher in Rio de Janeiro in 2004, and since then I have cov­ered nu­mer­ous deadly shoot­ings in­clud­ing many in­no­cent peo­ple caught in the cross­fire.

Some­times it hap­pens when heav­ily armed drug traf­fick­ers bat­tle over turf. Other times gangs shoot it out with elite units of mil­i­tary po­lice — more like com­mando squads than what usu­ally comes to mind when peo­ple think of po­lice.

For all its nat­u­ral beauty, the “Mar­velous City,” as Rio is called, has long strug­gled with vi­o­lence. It seems to pos­sess a toxic mix of deep so­cial and racial in­equal­i­ties, lots of guns, drugs and gangs, slums built hel­terskel­ter on hill­sides that are es­sen­tially im­pos­si­ble to pa­trol and bru­tal tac­tics by po­lice, who them­selves are of­ten tar­geted and killed.

Around 2008, I be­gan notic­ing a drop in the shoot­ings thanks to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Po­lice Paci­fi­ca­tion Units, known by the Por­tuguese acro­nym UPP.

Thou­sands of of­fi­cers were sta­tioned in many of the worst fave­las, or slums, while the city cou­pled that en­force­ment with in­creased public ser­vices.

Brazil was boom­ing eco­nom­i­cally, and the city had two global show­case events on the hori­zon that were in­cen­tives to make the pro­gram work: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Rio Sum­mer Olympics.

But the paci­fi­ca­tion pro­gram was clearly show­ing cracks be­fore the Olympics as Brazil’s worst eco­nomic cri­sis in decades set in, com­bined with a bevy of multi-bil­lion dol­lar cor­rup­tion scan­dals that have left state cof­fers bar­ren.

Now, more than a year after the Games, it feels like a re­turn to the sav­agery of the early 2000s.

For me the proof is in the heart-wrench­ing sto­ries of kids killed in the cross­fire. Au­thor­i­ties don’t specif­i­cally track how many of them die in shoot­ings — they are lumped in with all homi­cides — so it’s im­pos­si­ble to say for sure whether vi­o­lence is worse to­day than in years past.

But in my 13 years in Rio, I don’t re­mem­ber a time when there has been such a string of shock­ing and sense­less cases of chil­dren dy­ing.

They have been gunned down in restau­rants, at their friends’ homes, at school, all man­ner of places where you’d think they would be safe.

In a sense, it doesn’t mat­ter whether it was a gang mem­ber or a cop who pulled the trig­ger. Young peo­ple like Sofia Lara, Fer­nanda, Maria Ed­uarda, Felipe, Arthur and Vanessa are gone, and their fam­i­lies are left to deal with emo­tions rang­ing from • Let friends and fam­ily fo­cus on their loss. What they are feel­ing is unique to them and com­par­isons are not help­ful. • • “The way he/she lived, some­thing was bound to hap­pen.” • “Did they find the per­son who did it?” • “For­get about the trial and put it all be­hind you.” • “If this hap­pened to me, I couldn’t go on.” • “God won’t give you more than you can han­dle.”

Ac­ci­den­tal Death:What to do…

Ac­knowl­edge the per­son who has died but fo­cus on the life – not his/her death.

• Many times friends and fam­ily shy away from the tragedy. Be there for them when they need you.

Of­fer­ing as­sis­tance is good but is of­ten de­clined. In­stead, proac­tively take care of a chore such as lawn care, cook­ing, clean­ing or trans­porta­tion. Of­fer as­sis­tance with chil­dren or pets. Per­form un­de­sir­able tasks such as re­triev­ing per­sonal ef­fects after an au­topsy if you are an ap­pro­pri­ate per­son to do so. empti­ness and rage.

I’ve seen par­ents nearly pass out at fu­ner­als, cling­ing to pic­tures of fallen chil­dren and break­ing down at just the men­tion of their names.

No mat­ter how many times I cover these tragedies, I’ll never get used to it — and I never want to.

These par­ents should not have to be dy­ing in­side, be­cause their kids should not be dy­ing. Thought­ful ac­knowl­edg­ments are al­most al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated. Be­low are sam­ples of the types of sen­ti­ments you can in­clude. • “It’s so tragic. I will al­ways re­mem­ber him/her.” • “What you’re go­ing through must be very dif­fi­cult. Let me know how I can help.” • “I’m sad­dened by your loss. We care and love you deeply.”

If younger sib­lings are in­volved, let them ask ques­tions and ex­press their frus­tra­tions with the anger they see around them. Un­der­stand that their mis­chief , dur­ing and after ser­vices, may be an ex­pres­sion of what they are feel­ing. As­sure them, over and over again, that the death was not their fault. Be sen­si­tive that chil­dren may ex­pect an­other death. Calm their fears.

Those close to the deceased, es­pe­cially chil­dren, may need spe­cial at­ten­tion. It’s wise to help them find ap­pro­pri­ate ther­apy or a sup­port group. The State’s At­tor­ney’s of­fice should have a vic­tim’s as­sis­tance pro­gram to in­form sur­vivors of their rights and up­com­ing court dates, etc. and there are sup­port groups and pro­fes­sion­als in your area that can help.

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