We still don’t know the final death toll of the horrific Bangladesh factory collapse in the town of Dhaka. Estimates put the number of those killed somewhere over 750. Amid the destruction, one photographer found something she says will haunt her the rest of her days. Meet, Taslima Akhter, an activist and photographer in Bangladesh. She was there moments after the collapse taking photos of the rubble and she didn’t stop until around 2 a.m. That’s when she found this couple locked in a final embrace:
Photo by Taslima Akhter on April 25, 2013.
Speaking to TIME Magazine, Akhter said of the photo:
I have been asked many questions about the photograph of the couple embracing in the aftermath of the collapse. I have tried desperately, but have yet to find any clues about them. I don’t know who they are or what their relationship is with each other.
I spent the entire day the building collapsed on the scene, watching as injured garment workers were being rescued from the rubble. I remember the frightened eyes of relatives — I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Around 2 a.m., I found a couple embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were buried under the concrete. The blood from the eyes of the man ran like a tear. When I saw the couple, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I knew them — they felt very close to me. I looked at who they were in their last moments as they stood together and tried to save each other — to save their beloved lives.
Every time I look back to this photo, I feel uncomfortable — it haunts me. It’s as if they are saying to me, we are not a number — not only cheap labor and cheap lives. We are human beings like you. Our life is precious like yours, and our dreams are precious too.
This photo is haunting me all the time. If the people responsible don’t receive the highest level of punishment, we will see this type of tragedy again. There will be no relief from these horrific feelings. I’ve felt a tremendous pressure and pain over the past two weeks surrounded by dead bodies. As a witness to this cruelty, I feel the urge to share this pain with everyone. That’s why I want this photo to be seen.