This could well be one of those epoch-making images that history throws up once in a while, especially during crisis situations such as war, calamities, or rebellions. These images stand out from the routine ones churned out by photojournalists and others to describe the situation of that time.
They capture the joy, pain, hope, and despair of the people who are caught in that particular crisis. They stand the test of time and have a better recall value than others.
This image released by the US air force is part of a video that shows Afghans swarming the Kabul airport tarmac as a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III tries to take off.
The Taliban’s capture of Kabul has evoked despair among the populace as the horrors of their earlier rule two decades ago is still fresh in their minds. Hence they desperately want to get out of the country whatever it takes. This particular image vividly captures that desperation.
As the US air force aircraft rolled down the tarmac of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, hundreds of people ran alongside the plane while some even gained a foothold on its undercarriage. It almost resembled the people clinging on to the windows and roofs of a suburban train in Mumbai - but in this case, death was a certainty.
US air force officials later said the crew decided to “depart the airfield as quickly as possible” that day because of the deteriorating security situation. Crushed human remains were found inside the wheel well after the transport plane landed in Qatar. Media reports later said almost all of them fell to their deaths in and around Kabul city.
This image is in league with that of the anonymous ‘tank man’ who stands defiantly as armoured carriers rolled into Beijing before the Tiananmen Square massacre of agitating students in 1989.
Or the image of a young Vietnamese girl running down a road naked along with others following a napalm attack during the infamous Vietnam war. Or moving further down the history, the photo of a US sailor kissing a woman in a nurse’s uniform in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945. The picture evoked relief and euphoria marking the end of the horrific World War II.
These photos were captured on the spur of the moment, like any other image, by nimble-fingered photographers, but they soon developed a life of their own and the rest is history.
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