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Lions Roar : March 2015
that what you’re doing is dangerous or that you have to be thoughtful about how you proceed. I tried to be rational and really examine how to keep myself safe, even as I tried to put my fear behind me. What was happening in Liberia when you arrived in early September? Most of the country felt very normal. You could drive through Monrovia and not have any idea that there was an Ebola outbreak, except for the warnings on billboards and some of the radio jingles that would come on. For most Liberians, it was life as usual. You still had to go out. You still had to make money. You still had to take care of your family. You just had to make adjustments. You didn’t touch people. You tried to stay con- scious of who was sick and who wasn’t. To see how bad things really were, you had to go to one of the places where sick people were try- ing to get treatment, and those places were abso- lutely awful. My first day, I saw people who were dying outside of treatment centers that were too full to let them in. I saw children who were so sick that they couldn’t stand. It was heartbreaking. Many people feel such intense sorrow when they’re in the face of suffering that they can’t even bear to look at it. How did you cope with seeing people suffer like that? If empathy freezes you and keeps you from acting then it can be a hindrance, but the ability to feel pain at the sight of other peoples’ pain is a really important part of being fully human. Now, for me as a journalist there was a need to compartmental- ize. I felt sorrow for the people I’d see who were suffering but I knew that if I let that overwhelm me, I wouldn’t be able to do my job. Being a journalist can be very difficult, because whether you’re taking pictures of people who are in pain or you’re writing about them, sometimes you need to recognize the importance of the image or story rather than the immedi- ate needs of that person. It can be a difficult line Above: Ashoka Mukpo worked in Liberia for two years at the Sustainable Development Institute. When the Ebola crisis hit, he returned to work as a freelance journalist but fell ill the day after he was hired by NBC. Below: Mukpo sprays chlorine into a car that had transported an Ebola patient to the Doctors Without Borders facility in the outskirts of Monrovia. PHOTOBYTIMFRECCIAPHOTOBYM.HOLDENWARREN