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Outside the frame: Recovering loved ones

David Guttenfelder / AP

Tayo Kitamura, 40, kneels in the street to caress and talk to the wrapped body of her mother Kuniko Kitamura, 69, after Japanese firemen discovered the dead woman inside the ruins of her home in Onagawa, northeastern Japan Saturday, March 19.

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

I saw Tayo Kitamura picking through rubble in the leveled town of Onagawa. She was looking for her mother who'd been missing since the earthquake and tsunami struck. She told some Japanese firemen searching the area that she had a gut feeling her mother was buried in a house nearby. Her mother's house had mostly vanished, but she recognized part of the outer wall and some of her family belongings lying in a neighbor's yard. The firemen started digging, removing piles of wood and sea fish. They finally found a body of a woman. Everyone went silent.

Two firemen whispered to one another. They seemed to be talking about how to break the news. They carried the body to the road and held up a sheet while Kitamura checked. When she stepped away she turned to me and said, very stoically, "Yes, that's her." The firemen left Kitamura to be alone. She kneeled and began to caress her dead mother through the blue plastic, speaking to her in a whisper as she wept.

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