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Outside the frame: 'What do these people need?'

David Guttenfelder / AP

Japanese military unload food aid from a U.S. helicopter, that was dispatched from the the USS George Washington, as it lands near a shelter in the earthquake and tsunami-hit town of Minamisanriku, Friday, March 18.

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

I was inside a shelter on a hill above the leveled city of Minamisanriku. I heard a helicopter from the USS Ronald Reagan approaching outside. Several Japanese troops and I ran out into a muddy field where it landed. One of the U.S. crew members pantomimed to the Japanese that there were boxes of food on board and they began lifting cans of beans, dried foods, and powdered milk and stacking them outside. An American crew member approached me and, shouting over the thump of the chopper blades, he asked "Do you speak English? What do these people need? Medicine? Food?' I'd just arrived and didn't know. I glanced inside the makeshift hospital and saw they had medicine, so I shouted back that I guessed they needed food. After that, I found a Japanese soldier and a medic and told them to make a list of what they needed and give it to the chopper when they came back. They wrote on a Post-it note that they needed more food and especially cooking and heating gas. An hour later, the scene replayed. We heard another chopper coming in, this time from the USS George Washington. After food was unloaded, a crew member came up to me and shouted "Do you speak English? What do these people need?"