20 Years Ago…The Students Will Never Be Forgotten

June 4, 1989: Tiananmen Square, China. I was 12 and the student protests were one of the first major news stories that I recall really watching and paying attention to; and it is oddly juxtaposed in the same calendar year as the fall of Communism in Europe and the opening of the Berlin Wall.

I know that all of the news outlets have been hot-to-trot over this story for a whopping two days (seemingly forgotten for the last 19 years), but it’s a significant event that forever lives in the pixels of what is in my opinion, the best news photo ever shot. There are several different angles of the same image, but regardless of which photo you like more, the picture in this case is worth a million words (for backstory on the photos, click here). When you see the video footage, we all walk with him as he steps back and forth to block the inevitable. If you are looking for the definition of what a hero is, look no further than the tank man.

Nobody knows the fate of the man that caused the line of tanks to stop (at least momentarily): internet rumors are widespread that he was actually either killed that night, or later arrested and killed in prison. But the fact that nobody knows adds to the mystery and the awe of the image. It’s inspiring, it’s tragic, and it’s stomach-churning…all at the same time. The official Chinese death toll from the student protests was 241 dead – including soldiers. Chinese Red Cross estimates are in excess of 2,500. NATO estimates are over 7,000.

Rather than try to tell you any of the obvious messages in the photo, or the ones that I take from it, here it is for your consideration.


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