Witness to tragedy

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:53

Photographer says the lasting impression is not the carnage, but the work of those who helped Editor’s note: The following is Cornwall photographer Robert Hendriksen’s account of the accident that left six dead and many others injured. His photographs have appeared in the Daily News and the Times Herald-Record. At approximately 3 in the afternoon last Sunday, a can carrying 14 passengers flipped over on Interstate Highway 87 northbound between Woodbury and Newburgh, killing 6 and leaving others severely injured. The survivors were flown to Westcheter Medical Center and some were taken to Good Samaritan and Saint Francis Hospitals. Close to 100 police officers, firefighters, EMS and rescue workers as well as bystanders all worked to take control of an otherwise chaotic scene. Some of the first-responders were from Woodbury, Monroe, Cornwall, Central Valley and New Windsor vicinities. When I finally arrived after a half-mile run through the woods which started on Route 32 near the winery, I witnessed a chaotic scene that words can’t describe. As I walked around the scene photographing the carnage and trying not to look at the grim scene before me, I began to focus more on the actions of the rescuers and what they were doing to save lives, rather than why they were doing it. That’s what helped me get over what I was actually photographing. I used them as a diversion to help me get over what I was doing. It was the combined efforts of everyone, including the veterans, that gave strength to the others and helped them get the job done before the stark reality sank in as to what had happened. As the helicopters started to take off and the ambulances left with the victims, the scene was now scattered with rescue workers. Some of the younger rescue workers were traumatized, tired and bewildered because of what they had witnessed, but they along with the veterans played a vital role in bringing the chaos to a closing. These are the young men and women that the community should be thanking and that young people should look to as everyday heros. Once the scene cleared, there were sad reminders scattered on the highway of what everyone had just experienced. One beautiful and touching moment for me was watching as the rescue workers carefully began to pick up the pictures and personal belongings with such reverence for these people who were following God and who are now with God. “God bless them, their families, loved ones, and everyone who helped them,” I thought to myself as I walked down the Thruway and back into the woods.