The photo of Sabrina Harman is of an average looking woman. She is not dressed in her military, but civilian clothes. The caption under the photograph reads: “Specialist Sabrina Harman took hundreds of pictures, she says, to “just show what was going on, what was allowed to be done.” While I feel that this is true, I think that she also took the photos to force herself into believing what was happening before her eyes. To the world, she is just an average American citizen, fulfilling her duty in Iraq, but to Sabrina, she was living a nightmare. People are looking down on her actions, but to her it was a way of coping, a way of making sense of her immediate reality.
Self-preservation seems to be an important theme in both Suite Francaise and the New Yorker article. The first four lines of Suite Francaise give the impression that the Parisians do not feel threatened by the war going on in the distance. “Hot thought the Parisians. The warm spring air of spring. It was night, they were at war and there was an air raid. But dawn was near and the war was far away” (3). Though the war is ever-present, it is easier to focus on the hot night air than impending doom. It takes the Parisians being forced to flee their homes and their known world to make the war a reality. Likewise, it takes Sabrina Harman experiencing the worst in humanity in order to realize the brutality of war.
Sabrina Harman reminds me of one of the refugees despite being a soldier doing her job. Her living conditions and her work environment were the worst. She lived in constant fear of being shot at to the point that she didn’t shower. Her daily routine was disrupted, just like the Parisians lives were. The main difference between Sabrina and the Parisians was that she chose the life of a soldier and was not forced to flee in order to protect herself. However, her job was not the “glamorous” life of a soldier that she thought it would be. Just like the Parisians lives were motivated by the need to survive, Sabrina took pictures as a witness to herself. Suite Francaise demonstrates several ways that humans cope with crisis and Sabrina Harman’s story is another example of this. There are several ways of coping with disaster one is not better than the other.