The setting sun shimmered off of wind swept waves on Lake Erie as my plane took off for Chicago and I headed back to normal life, knowing that the people who I covered over the past three days will need a lot more than a 400 mile flight to return to their normal life. I flew to Cleveland on Monday after three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, and a child escaped from the home of Ariel Castro after allegedly being held there for about a decade.
This was driven home to me on my last emotional stop in this northeast Ohio city, visiting Melissa Knightâ€™s grandmother, Deborah Knight, at the end of a brick street that had more in common with a roller coaster than a freeway. While capturing her interactions with neighbor Sandra Guisao, I could tell that the news of Melissaâ€™s escape was causing her to experience a range of emotions. One could only imagine the horror these women had to endure after allegedly being held captive and raped for about a decade and the excitement they must have experienced when they made their escape.
On the morning that I met Deborah Knight, I was also in the room with Castro as he was arraigned on the charges. He seemed meek, staring at the floor. I read in a newspaper that some observed him chewing the collar of his jump suit. His mouth was close enough in the photos, but I canâ€™t say I saw it myself as I was too focused on trying to capture him when he looked up just enough so I could see his eyes. In these situations, the defendants never carry themselves the way you expect, leaving you with more and more questionsâ€¦ questions we will probably never get the answers to.
Both of these moments were in stark contrast to the day before when I photographed Amanda Berryâ€™s and Gina DeJesusâ€™ homecoming. At the Berry house, we were told that Amanda would make a statement when she arrived. Instead a chaotic scene erupted when she arrived in a van under what appeared to be a blanket. Her sister, Beth Serrano, then made the statement instead. Serrano caught me, and I am sure a lot of the other media, off guard when she quickly moved up within 10 feet of the phalanx of media and began to give a statement while holding back tears. We had expected her to speak from the porch and many of the cameras were left without a shot causing the media to crowd in, pushing and shoving, to capture the petite sibling. Being a tall photographer sometimes has its advantages as I was able to capture the momentâ€¦ if she had only stayed on the porch.
Before Gina DeJesus made here arrival, the cameras were all set as well until a van passed with the victim inside and the police decided to allow us closer at the last minute, causing a crush of neighbors and photographers. My height came in handy again when I was able to capture DeJesus’ victorious thumbs up while shooting over another photographer.
Michelle Knight remains in the hospital, a waiting her reunion with her grandmother.