Reporters Notebook: Cyclone's Trail of Misery

I stopped writing and looked up. Before today I had only cried while reporting once before — when a Vietnamese minister who had moved to Biloxi, Miss., told me he was ready to die as the waters of Hurricane Katrina trapped him in his church's attic.

Abujapar looked at me. He wore no shirt, and had a small cloth contraption called a lungi that many of the men here wear around their legs. He did not look sad. He actually looked more interested in me and my electronics than anything else. But when I returned his gaze his face changed. He was clearly startled by my tears.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I really am."

A pretty lame line, looking back on it, especially because I was too busy trying to hit a deadline, that I didn't even take the time to talk to him myself.

I would like to have sat down with him and asked him about his daughters. What they looked like, what they enjoyed doing, whether they were close to their parents and what he hoped they would do one day. I would like to have asked Abujapar how he was doing. I'm sorry I never got the chance.

"I'm sorry," I said again. He nodded. At least he understood me.

I'm sorry, Abujapar, that I had to leave your village.

I walked out as the sun went down, and a 15-year-old started talking to me. His English was bad but we had enough words in common that I learned he was studying science in school. Chemistry.

He offered to carry my bag as we hopped along a walkway toward my boat.

As I said goodbye he stuck his hand out. I'll always remember how rough it was.

"I am blessed," he said. "And I am hungry."

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