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As disturbing as it was to learn that a man was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City earlier this week, it was also disturbing to see the image of the victim standing on the tracks just before he was hit by the oncoming train. A freelance photographer who happened to be on the scene at the time and snapped the photo, which was then run on the cover of yesterday's issue of the New York Post behind the word "DOOMED." That photographer spoke with Matt Lauer about the incident and the photo on the Today show. Check out the video ahead.
R. Umar Abbasi took the mentioned photo, which shows 58-year-old Ki-Suk Han standing on the subway tracks at the 49th Street station in Manhattan as a train approached. Han was pushed onto the tracks by another man (police apprehended a suspect believed to be the assailant).
Many have questioned why someone was snapping a photo of this man instead of helping him get off the tracks. Abbasi's reported explanation in the article the Post ran with the photo, was that he was trying to get the train operator's attention with the flash on the camera as he ran toward the man. He just happened to get a photo of the man on the tracks in the process.
Whether or not people believe that explanation probably varies as much as opinions on the debate about the ethics of a professional photographer who might choose to take a photo of someone in dire need of help, rather than helping them. These are topics worth discussing, and they come up in the video below (via THR) as Matt Lauer talks to Abbasi about the picture and what he witnessed at the subway station.
Abbasi comes off as calm and professional and not especially defensive about the situation. He has sold the photo (or the license to use the photo). And from what he says, while Abbasi wasn't close enough to help the victim, he saw other people could have.
"They could have moved and grabbed him and pulled him out,'' he said. "Nobody made an effort. This is a frozen moment. There's a train approaching. From where the train is to where Mr. Han is, is a second. I am further away.''
The photo aside, the question of whether anyone could have helped the victim get off the tracks before he was hit is probably one of the bigger issues on people's minds. We want to believe that if we're ever in a situation like the one the victim experienced, people would lend us a hand or two. And it may be easy to pass judgment on people who didn't react in time (assuming they did have enough time to do something), but I don't think anyone knows how they'd react in a situation like this if they were there, aside from people who are trained to react to emergencies. I'm sure all of us want to believe we'd be the first person running to pull this guy away from danger. But there's the element of shock and fear, which might shave at least a few seconds off a person's reaction, especially at the sight of the train approaching. Or maybe this is my way of trying to make sense of what happened. It's an unfortunate situation, but as Abbasi says, it has sparked discussion about how the safety of the subway systems can be improved, which is a positive way of looking at it.