Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Drained

(photo courtesy Seattle PI) Today I had to stand along the Green River, and watch crews pull a car from the raging current with the body of a 2-year old old boy still strapped into his car seat. Reporters had been standing along the bank for hours, even sitting on muddy grass, as the muddy current curled and sneered by the still cameras. This river that has given up so many bodies. It was these eddies that filled a car as this little boy screamed and cried, frightened, locked away in a seat that was supposed to keep him safe as water choked his lungs.

I had to go live on the radio immediately after I heard the King County Sheriff spokesman deliver the news about this toddler. I heard my voice quiver as I fought back tears, but tried to stay the professional reporter. Images of this boy and the fight of his 13-year old cousin to save him flashed like movie clips in my mind. The cousin frantically rolling down windows. The cousin getting out, then taking a deep breath to plunge back into the currents to try to get to the baby, but getting swept away and drowning. No one knows where his body is. The horror of the 16-year old driver who got away safe.

I've never been at a story that affected me so much, that affected everyone there. Reporters talked in low voices with ashen faces. Sad, shiny eyes. I had to bite my lip to keep from crying and knew everyone was doing the same. We had a job to do, a story to tell. I think the overwhelming sadness of the friends and family of these two children created a blanket of anguish that settled around everyone nearby. It's hard not to cry when you see a family member sobbing her heart out only a few feet away.

When it was all said and done, I sat in my newscar to write my stories. I heard a tap on the window and looked up, seeing a family member.

"I just wanted to tell you thanks," she said quietly, her eyes bloodshot with tears and stress. I looked at her and smiled faintly, nodded.

"I wanted to thank the news media, for covering this and being so respectful of the family."

"I hope you find the 13-year old boy," I told her.

"We will, we will." Her eyes were sad but she smiled again, maybe thinking of his face.

8 comments:

Dan-Eric Slocum said...

It hurts my heart to read this. I've been many times in that *exact* same situation--witnessing some horror that is just hard to fathom.

I've left work in tears, over the years, on many days because of something I've seen or reported.

That is the VERY difficult part of our business. It is TOUGH.

Lisa said...

Oh Kristin. I feel your pain too. Thank you for sharing this, and for trusting us with the intimate turmoil of the moment.

Your work was excellent. And I had to put that cloak over my own heart so I would not break down.

Kristin said...

It was tough, but writing it down on the blog helped me process it. Now, after eating something yummy, playing tennis, and relaxing I'm feeling much better.

Neo said...

really it takes reading something like this to understand the life of a reporter. I am simply a lawn tech and don't come in contact with life/death struggles every day. I can only imagine the horror of what you witnessed. There was one time I was a an open casket wake of 2 teens, boyfriend/girlfriend killed in a car wreck, I feel the pain and thank you for the chance to see life in anothers eyes.

Colleen said...

Great work Kristin. I'm happy you were able to talk face-to-face with a family member. You never know how families will react to the media covering the death of a loved one - this time it worked out. You are a strong woman. I would have broken down right then and there at the rap on my window. I'm such a cry baby. Luckily you have a loving boyfriend and loving coworkers to help you through when it gets difficult.

McJumpguez said...

Oh my. This made me cry. I'm glad you are feeling better. I would *never* be able to have a job like that, but then again, you and I are very very similar, so it is possible. I commend you for being professional, but also for being human.

Kathleen said...

Stories like that are heartbreaking to cover. I remember covering a house fire once that left three low-income families homeless in the dead of the Maine winter. They got two nights at a motel from the Red Cross and didn't know where they were going to go after that. It broke my heart.

((hugs))

At least, at the end of the day, you know that you covered the story with all the sympathy and sensitivity possible.

Sue said...

Aaaaah, I welled up reading this. I feel your pain. I remember how it was covering tragedies involving children. Can't do it anymore and can barely take hearing them on the news. You still have HEART! When it longer makes you sad, then that's sad.