Goodbye Bennetta

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Goodbye Bennetta

Bennetta Bet-Badal worked for the San Bernadino County's Department of Public Health. On Dec. 2, 2015, during a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in her county, she was shot and killed. Betbadhal was one of 14 people killed by a husband and wife team of terrorists. 

At her service on Monday, Dec. 14, hundreds were present to honor her and give their support to her family. Her husband, Arlen Verdehyou greeted family and friends as their three children, ages 10, 12 and 15 stood by his side. 

Bet-Badal was born and raised in Iran and left the country when she was 18. She fled "to escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians that followed the Iranian Revolution," according to the family's personal GoFundMe page. The service was filled with kind words, honor, tears and a variety of people from co-workers, to police officers, to many members of the Assyrian-American community she was a part of. Take a look at some moments that took place at the end of the service prior to her burial. 

  The husband of Bennetta Bet-Badal consoles his two sons as their mother's casket is placed in the hearse at the end of her funeral service at Sacred Heart Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

The husband of Bennetta Bet-Badal consoles his two sons as their mother's casket is placed in the hearse at the end of her funeral service at Sacred Heart Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

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I. SIGHT.

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I. SIGHT.

Nick lost his eye sight. It came quickly and with no real warning. One day he woke up with blurred vision and within a week he could see very little in his left eye. A few days later his right eye followed. Within two weeks he went from working, taking care of the household, cooking for his wife, camping and enjoying daily tasks to sitting on a chair with his cane unable to see. 


Nick had a condition that caused veins within his eye to tear. Slowly blood was dripping out of the veins and into his eyes. The interesting part was that it was not visible when looking directly at him. It was not visible from the surface of his eyes, so from the exterior, Nick's eyes looked perfectly normal.

Nick then went through five months of inhibited vision. During this time he relied on his two best friends, his wife Katharine and his dog Bear. Katharine would lay out his clothes in the morning and shave his face. Bear would guide him through new locations. Friends would drive him around as he could no longer be behind the wheel. He became the resident passenger. That statement became true of more experiences than just sitting in a car. He became the passenger in many things rather than the active and involved social man that he is.  He had to become intimate with any object he was interacting with in order to complete a simple daily function,  such as ATMs, Menus, his wallet or his wife's face. He would get very close to the ATM buttons in hopes he might be able to make out something. He would poke items on his plate with a fork and ask around to confirm what it was. He would ask the cashier "Is this a 10 or a 20?" He would caress his wife's face, remembering what she looked like.  He created a very intimate relationship with Siri as she navigated his calls and texts. 

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It became what Nick called a transformative time that changed his perspective on many many things, including his career choice and his view point on nature. He decided he wanted to open up a clinic in the future to help people with various health issues. He himself is diabetic and has pain in many of his nerve endings. Losing his sight, even for a short time,  made him realize he wanted to use his kind hearted nature and experience as a patient to help others with medical issues. He is a firm believer in medical marijuana and its ability to heal many ailments. He wants to show those suffering from various medial issues that there are many options to help yourself heal. He held close to his guitar to rejuvenate his spirit, a natural and long time musician, he did not need sight to play a guitar. He became actively involved in tone of people's voices. He stated that "...their voices became their faces and their identity. I could no longer see them. I just listened closely to the rhythm of their voice."

Nick, always known for his positivity by his friends and family, found a way to keep that positivity present even when his sight was gone. He became very reflective, often recording thoughts on his phone's audio notes and listening to documentaries on Netflix. He said he stayed positive because he had too.

"I knew that if I let this effect my spirit it would effect my wife. The minute I realized I could no longer see anything is the same minute I knew I could not fall apart. If I seemed unfazed and confident then she would be too. I chose that path. I chose to not let the topic of conversation always be the fact that I could not see. It was already all I was thinking about so I didn't want it to become what everyone else was thinking about."

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Nick had a long daily regiment for his eyes, from 3-4 different drops and ointments. He attempted to heal his eyes for 3 months but nothing seemed to be working. His last option was surgery.

Nick had surgery in November to fix the issue in one eye and has regained 90% of his vision in that eye. In the spring of 2016 he will attempt surgery on his other eye - in hopes to regain his full vision.

 Take a look at his journey below and when you reach the last of the photos you will see when Nick was able to see a glimpse his wife Katharine for the first time in 5 months. 

Nick stated, "After this experience I realized how so many things in life are not important. All I wanted to do was be able to see my wife, look up at the sky, maybe drive and be able to cook. Such simple things. After my eyesight shifted and I could not see, it was so clear to me that the simple things in life are so so valuable. It changed my perspective on everything."

Five Days after Nick's surgery he was finally able to see pieces of the scenes in front of him and glimpses of light and peoples faces. Below is a quick look into the moment Nick could finally make out his wife's face for the first time in months. 

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Italia.

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Italia.

Behind the scenes, in one of the world's oldest and most well known cities, Rome. Take a look at the men and women behind the counters at Rome's most well known outdoor market at Campo Di Fiori and a meat market on the edge of the city. 

All photographs were shot on 35mm film. 

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FACES OF: THE FIRST {NEXT} GENERATION

FACES OF: THE FIRST {NEXT} GENERATION

First Generation Americans are native born citizens of the United States with one or both parents being foreign born. 

As the face of America consistently changes and the ideology surrounding immigration constantly shifts, let's take a look at the faces of First Generation Americans. 

Below are Millennial First Generation Americans, born from early 1980s to early 2000s. These are the faces of the future of America and they are all born of immigrants. 

The U.S.-born children of immigrants make up 11.7% of the nation’s population
— Pew Research Center, 2013

As a First Generation American the clash of your parents' culture and the city and ideology of present day America is a constant struggle. In a more creative experiment, I projected each participant's respective flag over them as well as a statement they hand wrote. Representing being fully consumed by the culture of their parents, it effects their voices, their morals, how they see the world and how they choose to live out their daily decisions. Participants also brought items that they felt represented their connection to their parents' home country, as well as their own home country of the United States. (Hover your mouse over each image for more insight.)

"I always feel like I have one foot here and one foot there. My parents kept us pretty balanced growing up. I know both worlds and both experiences. Its easy for me to jump back and forth into both worlds.” - Sahhara, 22 | Lebanese American

Sahhara, 22 Lebanese-American

 "I feel like when the civil war was happening you never knew what was going to happen and so making sure you made time for family was important. We always have huge dinners with our Lebanese side of the family. Growing up they (my parents) made that a big part of our life, to go and celebrate with everyone, like birthdays or Eid. It was just a good way to grow up." - Miranda, 22 | Lebanese American

"I feel like when the civil war was happening you never knew what was going to happen and so making sure you made time for family was important. We always have huge dinners with our Lebanese side of the family. Growing up they (my parents) made that a big part of our life, to go and celebrate with everyone, like birthdays or Eid. It was just a good way to grow up." - Miranda, 22 | Lebanese American

Goodbye Nohemi

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Goodbye Nohemi

Nohemi Gonzalez was the only American killed during the terrorist attack in Paris, on November 13, 2015. 

Nohemi, a student at California State University Long Beach, was remembered during a candlelight vigil and memorial service on the school campus,  just two days later on November 15. Hundreds of students, Nohemi's mother and step father, boyfriend and classmates attended to show their support and say goodbye. 

 Nohemi's mother is seen here being comforted by her husband, Nohemi's step-father. All guests were asked to raise their candles to the heavens as the CSULB Choir sung a hymn. 

Nohemi's mother is seen here being comforted by her husband, Nohemi's step-father. All guests were asked to raise their candles to the heavens as the CSULB Choir sung a hymn. 


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DÉTESTENT

DÉTESTENT

DÉTESTENT

During the late evening of November 13, 2015 Paris was attacked by the terrorists in a series of coordinated events. The attack took place in the form of multiple suicide bombs and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants, city streets and the music venue the Bataclan theatre. 

130 people were killed in the attacks and so many more injured. The attacks left a haunting and chilling energy in the streets of Paris and throughout the world. World leaders responded and cities around the world held vigils. The world slowed that day, as shock set in. Parisians, tourists and students were killed while eating their dinner, watching their favorite band play or simply walking down the street. 

The photos below show the vigil held in the city of Los Angeles, where many French natives gathered to pray for peace. 

The hashtag #PrayforParis became the number one hashtag on all social media sites that day or for the days follow.

The New York Times released a piece that was then shared thousands and thousands of times. It is written here and can be heard by pressing play below the excerpt. 

"La France incarne tout ce que les fanatiques religieux du monde détestent : la joie de vivre par une myriade de petites choses : le parfum d'une tasse de café et des croissants le matin, de belles femmes en robe souriant librement dans la rue, l'odeur du pain chaud, une bouteille de vin que l'on partage entre amis, quelques gouttes de parfum, les enfants qui jouent dans les jardins du Luxembourg, le droit de ne croire en aucun dieu, de se moquer des calories, de flirter, fumer et apprécier le sexe hors mariage, de prendre des vacances, de lire n'importe quel livre, d'aller à l'école gratuitement, jouer, rire, se disputer, se moquer des prelats comme des politiciens, de ne pas se soucier de la vie après la mort.

Aucun pays sur terre n'a de meilleure définition de la vie que les Français".

 

"France epitomizes what the religious fanatics of the world hate : the joy of living by a myriad of little things : the scent of a cup of coffee and croissants in the morning , beautiful women smiling dress freely in the streets, the smell of hot bread, a bottle of wine that we share with friends, a few drops of perfume, children playing in the gardens of Luxembourg, the right not to believe in any god to make fun of calories, flirting, smoking and enjoying sex outside marriage, taking a vacation, reading any book, going to school for free, play, laugh, argue, make fun of prelates as politicians, not worrying about life after death.

No country on earth has better definition of life as the French . "