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Image of Hurricane Harvey rescue tells story of tenderness and unity, dominates front pages

CORRECTS FROM CONNIE TO CATHERINE - Houston Police SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck carries Catherine Pham and her 13-month-old son Aiden after rescuing them from their home, surrounded by floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27, 2017. (AP Photo / David J. Phillip)

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Young Aiden Pham wasn’t even awake for his brief moment in the spotlight. But Houston photographer David Phillip was there to capture the toddler in what would become an iconic image of Hurricane Harvey and the historic floods.

The photo of the sleeping 13-month-old, swaddled in a blanket and held in his mother’s arms as they’re carried to safety, was among the many dramatic rescues of the floods that have inundated southeast Texas.

The image – which appeared on the web and front pages across the country,including the Wall Street Journal – along with others taken by Phillip earn him the Beat of the Week.

Phillip captured the scene Sunday when he noticed Daryl Hudeck,a SWAT team member, carrying Catherine Pham and her baby son through knee-deep waters covering Interstate 610 in southwest Houston.

Phillip also shot other riveting images,above,including one of a rescuer clutching a man he’d pulled from a flooded car in neck-high water that made it to the front page of The Washington Post,and another of two people wading through the highway’s rushing waters that appeared on the top half of USA Today.

When Phillip saw the Phams,he says, “I just couldn’t believe that baby was wrapped up in there and not crying.” Watching the moment of the officer carrying the mother and toddler to a staging point on the road “was just tender. It was very special.”

Phillip was pitched backward into the water, and the boat’s propeller cut the camera strap around his body.

Shortly after he witnessed the rescue,Phillip broke away to transmit the photos. It was good timing,too. Not long after,a boat he was on struck an object underwater,probably a submerged car,and Phillip was pitched backward into the water. His leg was scraped by the boat’s outboard motor before fire department rescuers could pull him on board. It was such a close call that the propeller cut the camera strap that was around his body. One of Phillip’s cameras and all the images it contained were lost.

So,too, were his prescription eyeglasses. He used an extra pair of prescription sunglasses from his car to drive home.

Phillip,who has been based in Houston for all of his 22 years with the AP,has covered many hurricanes. But Katrina, Ike and Rita could not prepare him for the one that has swamped his home city.

“Having this in your home,” he says, “it’s just kind of a sickening feeling. I just kind of think it’s a bad dream and we’ll all wake up and it will all be gone. But it isn’t going to be any time soon.”

Varvel Star
Editorial cartoon adapted from David Phillip’s photo. – Gary VARVEL / INDYSTAR

But Phillip says seeing police rescues have reminded him of the city’s resilience.

“There’s moments that will always stick in your head – that one and something that happened a few hours before them,when a sheriff’s deputy had to go and rescue a guy from a flooded car,” he says. “Just the terror on the gentleman’s face who was being rescued and just how dedicated our law enforcement is, just doing what they can to save people.”

For his compelling images and tenacious work during the storm, Phillip wins this week’s $500 prize.

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