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Outside the Frame: Sweeping the road

David Guttenfelder / AP

A Japanese soldier sweeps a street in the earthquake and tsunami-hit town of Minamisanriku, Friday, March 18, where his unit planned to begin placing people's personal items to sort.

AP photojournalist David Guttenfelder shares his experience covering the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Some Japanese soldiers were waiting for equipment to finish clearing a field for use as a staging ground, when one of them began to busy himself by sweeping the road with a tiny broom. He worked on this for at least an hour and cleared only a tiny patch of the road, which is blocked, in the background, by a train engine. The destruction of Minamisanriku is so total, I wondered why this soldier would do something that seemed beyond futile. I think when people feel helpless they will sometimes try anything, no matter how pointless, just to feel they are doing something.