baker aids memorial richard phibbs

This Man’s Tribute Is a Powerful Reminder of How the AIDS Epidemic Wiped out Entire Communities5 min read

Photographer Richard Phibbs intimately recounts the AIDS epidemic in an emotional post.

New York City was affected by the AIDS epidemic more than any other US city during the 1980s. Today this generation of gay men is starkly absent from the fabric of the NYC gay community.

Due to the tight-knit nature of the gay community, entire friend groups, social circles and families perished during the AIDS plague. On a post by The Aids Memorial on Instagram, Richard Phibbs pays homage to Baker and recalls his harrowing experience.


After Baker died, Rolf died too, then Bill, then John, then Jose, then 12 other friends, then my boss, my dentist, and my doctor. All dead. Gone —Richard Phibbs.

To give a sense of the sheer devastation of the death of entire communities, in Tom Bianchi’s book Fire Island Pines, he recounts, “The nightmare became our reality. Six, sometimes eight or more friends from a single house, died over the course of a winter – a whole family gone. One day walking down the beach, every friend I encountered began the conversation… “Have you heard about…Paul Wilson, or Tim Romanello, or Mark Feld or Gene Gordon or Mel Hammock? They were men I’d loved, each either admitted to a hospital or dead.”

tom bianchi fire island pines

Image from Tom Bianchi’s Book “Fire Island Pines”

Below is the full text of Richrard Sribb’s post about Baker.

Baker

Baker

 

“The next phase came when they had to amputate Baker’s foot because the KS had spread. In the hospital, I held his hand as the excruciating “phantom pains” took over his body.
.
Baker died. My best friend and my brother was gone at 32.
.
Baker was a remarkable man. Selling art was his passion — collecting art was his dream. He was kind to everyone. He was so handsome that everyone wanted to talk to him and he would spend time with each person that did; most of them were strangers and he would make them feel heard and important.
.
After Baker died, Rolf died too, then Bill, then John, then Jose, then 12 other friends, then my boss, my dentist, and my doctor. All dead. Gone.
.
I was overwhelmed with sadness, then guilt that I was still alive. Depression set in. I got myself to a therapist and onto an anti-depressant. I knew that as sad as I felt, the gift of life was mine. Seeing Baker fight so hard for his life was a reminder that I had to fight for mine.
.
Then came a medical miracle. If Baker could only have held on for 6 months, he could have received anti-retroviral treatment and still be with us. At the time I didn’t believe they would find something. I just couldn’t believe it.
.
I think about Baker everyday. I think about Rolf and all the rest. Sometimes, I think I still have PTSD from all the losses.
.
Sometimes I still equate sex with death though I remind myself that this is a different time.
.
I still weep when I walk by the new condominiums that have gone up where St. Vincent’s Hospital stood. I look up and remember those cinder block cells of rooms and the hallways packed with the gurneys of young men with skeletal bodies and KS lesions.
.
I walk by the nearby NYC AIDS Memorial hoping to feel something. I don’t, except a sadness that the names one sees on other war monuments aren’t displayed here, the names of the lost.
.
Before I go to sleep and when I wake up I see this photograph of Baker and somehow this comforts me.
.
I love you, my dear brother. You fought hard and with such dignity. You were so kind and sweet to everyone. You were brave until the end. I am so sorry the world was not kinder to you.”

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Below is the original post on Instagram.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

— “The next phase came when they had to amputate Baker’s foot because the KS had spread. In the hospital, I held his hand as the excruciating “phantom pains” took over his body. . Baker died. My best friend and my brother was gone at 32. . Baker was a remarkable man. Selling art was his passion — collecting art was his dream. He was kind to everyone. He was so handsome that everyone wanted to talk to him and he would spend time with each person that did; most of them were strangers and he would make them feel heard and important. . After Baker died, Rolf died too, then Bill, then John, then Jose, then 12 other friends, then my boss, my dentist, and my doctor. All dead. Gone. . I was overwhelmed with sadness, then guilt that I was still alive. Depression set in. I got myself to a therapist and onto an anti-depressant. I knew that as sad as I felt, the gift of life was mine. Seeing Baker fight so hard for his life was a reminder that I had to fight for mine. . Then came a medical miracle. If Baker could only have held on for 6 months, he could have received anti-retroviral treatment and still be with us. At the time I didn’t believe they would find something. I just couldn’t believe it. . I think about Baker everyday. I think about Rolf and all the rest. Sometimes, I think I still have PTSD from all the losses. . Sometimes I still equate sex with death though I remind myself that this is a different time. . I still weep when I walk by the new condominiums that have gone up where St. Vincent’s Hospital stood. I look up and remember those cinder block cells of rooms and the hallways packed with the gurneys of young men with skeletal bodies and KS lesions. . I walk by the nearby NYC AIDS Memorial hoping to feel something. I don’t, except a sadness that the names one sees on other war monuments aren’t displayed here, the names of the lost. . Before I go to sleep and when I wake up I see this photograph of Baker and somehow this comforts me. . I love you, my dear brother. You fought hard and with such dignity. You were so kind and sweet to everyone. You were brave until the end. I am so sorry the world was not kinder to you.” — by @richardphibbs

A post shared by THE AIDS MEMORIAL (@theaidsmemorial) on


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