EDITOR’S NOTE: Last Thursday, April 7, a gunman entered under a false pretext the Tasso da Silveira school in a Rio de Janeiro suburb, carrying two pistols and dozens of rounds of ammunition. An alumnus himself of the same school where he had a history of being bullied and mental illness, he lined children up facing the wall and shot two dozen of them, before turning the gun on himself. Twelve students were dead, and others are still agonizing in the hospital.
This is the most painful type of story for most photographers, when a senseless tragedy involves children. The two Reuters photographers who covered the shooting and subsequent funerals speak here of their experiences, and how they coped professionally and personally.
Sergio Moraes, 49, father of two, writes:
I woke up on April 7, the morning a gunman attacked students at Tasso da Silveira middle school, with a slight headache only hours after celebrating my son’s 18th birthday. A journalist from the newsroom called early to tell me that a man had entered a school in a Rio suburb and injured a few people. It sounded serious but since there were no apparent fatalities I called my colleague Ricardo, who was closer, and asked him to go to the school. It was only when I began to monitor my news sources that I realized we had a huge story on our hands, and I raced to Realengo, the middle class neighborhood where the school was. I called Ricardo and assigned him to the hospital as I arrived at the school.
The scene at the school was one of families’ desperation for news of their children. It took a few moments to get my bearings and know where to begin to photograph. The first thing I thought about were my own kids and how I would like to be with them now, but the importance of our work at times like these was very clear. We were documenting the first attack of this type in Brazil. My head cleared and I began to photograph with precision what I was witnessing.
The worst came on April 8, the day after the attack, when 10 young victims were buried. It was an exercise in how to cover a story so grave without offending or showing disrespect for the families that had lost their children. I first tried to talk with some of them and show that I wasn’t a vulture preying on their grief. I had arrived early to show them my solidarity with their pain, and simply observed from afar while discreetly taking pictures.