From CNN producer and dear friend Robert Wiener
John Morris, who helped bury Robert Capa, Eugene Smith and many others in your trade, said the turnout at Alexandra's farewell was by far the largest send-off given any photographer John could recall. It was only natural, of course, the gang from VII was there along with Jerome flying up from Jo'burg. But there too was Bob Pledge winging in from China, Santiago Lyon jetting from New York, and friends of Boulat from Italy, the U.K., and other points on the compass too numerous to mention.
As Chris Morris said, as we embraced goodbye, "This is a day we'll remember the rest of our lives." Chris was right.
"Look at how many people loved your daughter," I said to Annie at the house. And Annie, who could win any contest for style and substance, agreed and quietly marveled at the tribute.
So many unforgettable moments: Gary's wonderful eulogy that made us laugh despite our pain; Issa's simple words, "I shivered when Alexandra said she loved me and I'm shivering now." Jim, looking grim yet thoughtful as the coffin was lowered into the earth; Jerome's designer specs falling into the grave, prompting muffled laughter and briefly lightening the moment; the multitude of floral tributes; Ron and Evan in mufti as two diamond merchants on 47th Street; the prayers from the Koran along with the saying of kaddish.
Yes, indeed. I could almost hear Alex laughing, "C'est trop TOP!"
I didn't join the group in Montparnasse afterwards for what I'm sure was a time to both laugh and cry. I simply wanted to be alone, even though it's rare when we can all get together.
I met people yesterday I didn't know, but now I feel a bond of kinship. Lest anyone ever doubt there is a Force in the universe, October 12, 2007, proved such a Force exists. In this case, Alexandra was the messenger of that Force.
As I said to Ron as we drove back to Paris, we have all witnessed or taken photos of burials around the world. And God knows we've seen our share of bodies, piles of corpses from Rwanda to Eastern Europe to Southeast Asia. Once, while covering the war in Vietnam, I watched a bereft widow literally hurl herself into her husband's grave. Her family finally had to tear her away.
But it was tough seeing that coffin with the simple brass plaque: "Alexandra Boulat 1962 - 2007."
I kissed the coffin at the church. I never did anything like that before—even for my parents.
Like the men of D-Day or the vets from Vietnam and even Iraq, we too are a Band of Brothers. And our sister, Alex, was an integral part of that Band. Only those of us who have shared the crucible of war can truly understand how the bond unites us.
A year before he died, at a café near his flat, Cartier-Bresson and I had a long conversation about the state of the world. Like all my talks with Henri, we rambled on for hours, the subject matter as diverse as his photographs and sketches. On that particular day, Henri was ruminating about optimism and pessimism. "In general, Robert," he explained, "I am a pessimist about the world. We continue to kill each other over land, riches, the color of people's skin, religion, and other ills in society.
"But I am optimistic about individuals."
Alexandra was proof that Henri was right. She was a humanist, an internationalist, a champion of the sanctity of human rights and respect for those values.
So are all of you.