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Happiness unfolds in front of the lens

It was a happy day. Jill Carroll was coming home, freed after 82 days as a hostage in Iraq. Many people throughout the world had been following the story of the young, female foreign correspondent who had been kidnapped. Over time, we had all come to think of Jill as a sister, a daughter, a friend. We hoped and prayed for her safety, for a happy ending.

After almost 12 weeks, it was finally here, and I was given the assignment of a lifetime: to photograph Jill's reunion with her family. Respecting their wishes, I would be the only photographer present. The pressure and stress I felt was powerful, but my desire to record those emotional moments was stronger. I was used to being the eyes for Monitor readers, but this was the first time I knew I had to be the eyes for everyone interested in Jill. Would my exposures be accurate? Would I get the right angles? Would I be able to do my job unobtrusively so I didn't bother the family? I didn't want to let anyone down. A colleague I called for advice - and to calm me down - told me to shoot from the heart and all would be well.

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I arrived at the family's apartment as they watched TV news showing Jill's plane landing. Here were the mother, father, and sister I had seen on television pleading for Jill's release. They were as happy, excited, and gracious as I had expected. Soon she was there, in their arms. My eyes brimmed with tears as her family welcomed her. Jill! Home! She hugged each one again and again, alone and in groups. They touched one another's faces and used nicknames of endearment. I kept clicking the shutter as happiness unfolded in front of my lens. This photo of her in her father's embrace is a favorite. A happy ending: our Jill, safe.


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