A Vivid Memory
LingBing Hang
LingBing Hang

I have a vivid memory of the day I signed up for the Katrina project. It was Sept. 15, 2005. There was an evening class — Multimedia Reporting — taught by Professor Joel Beeson.

“Have you heard about Camp Dawson, Lingbing?” Professor Beeson asked.

“No, I have never heard about it,” I said.

“There are many Hurricane Katrina evacuees who came to West Virginia, and are at Camp Dawson. Would you like to do your professional multimedia project as your graduate thesis? Here is the great opportunity now,” he said.

My heart started beating fast. I was overwhelmed with mixed feelings. I was anxious and fearful.

“Let me think about it, professor. I’ll let you know.” I said. Almost at the same time, my inner voice told me that I should say yes.

In the class, Professor Beeson introduced Camp Dawson to all of us. He and other professors and students had gone to Camp Dawson just the day before. He already had a lot of notes on his notepad. It was the first time I heard about a couple who lost their brand new house and how one evacuee was washing cars to make him tired enough to sleep at night and forget the hurricane.

New Orleans is far away from Morgantown. It is an amazing city of which only exists in my imagination. It is the city of blues, jazz and authentic Cajun restaurants.

I watched news about New Orleans’ disaster every day. But now there were people coming to West Virginia. I could not help wanting to get close to them, to listen to their stories and photograph their life in Camp Dawson.

“Sign me in.” I said to Professor Beeson after the class.

As a photojournalist, I cannot help thinking about how valuable the project is to journalism and to the multimedia project our school is developing. It is a great opportunity for us to learn new technology.

Four times I have gone to Camp Dawson.

At the very beginning, I just walked around and listened to people because there were so many restrictions on the military base. I just stepped back.

The peak time of my interview and my photo work was during the wedding of Greg and Glenda Avery.

The boundary of the language is the big problem. I tried my best.

I never thought the language kept me from understanding the people because the feeling of hope is universal. So I can understand what they are thinking.

It is a good opportunity for me to learn the culture of people. What is their concern? How will they rebuild their lives? They even found more love in themselves.

When I was in the telephone tent, I listened to people who talked to relatives about finding housing. For two hours I listened. A young lady was talking to her mother about leaving Camp Dawson and going to Houston.

She was tearing up and saying “I love you.”

I was touched.