TIME the backstory

First Person: A Single Frame From Japan’s Tsunami Aftermath by David Guttenfelder

Lightbox noticed a particularly poignant photograph among the many haunting images of the devastation and asked photographer David Guttenfelder for the backstory.

Tokyo-based Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder was on assignment in China when the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11. He got on the first available flight back to cover the aftermath. Lightbox noticed a particularly poignant photograph among the many haunting images of the devastation and asked Guttenfelder for the back story.

“In every town I’ve entered there have been bodies of victims, and I was saddened when I realized that all of the dead I’ve seen were elderly,” Guttenfelder said in an e-mail. “I assume this is because they were all alone and too frail, too slow to escape when the tsunami sirens started wailing. We discovered this woman lying next to the stairs of her home. I don’t know more about her but I believe that recovery teams, or neighbors placed the blanket on her. It was among the saddest of scenes I’ve witnessed here. She looked beautiful to me, but so alone.”

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