Monday, May 20, 2013

REMAINING DETACHED

"You had to have had an awful day," a friend texted tonight.

"Things like Moore don't bother me," I wrote back.

My friend called it an "amazing ability to remain detached to focus on a story." I call it a personality flaw. I also call it the truth.

As news of the storm came in I took the live shot, knowing that the social media universe was quickly being overwhelmed by posts about prayers and heartbreak over the event that killed dozens of people. I took inventory of my gut, my heart, my soul. Nope, nothing there. All I cared about was making sure the live shot didn't go to black.

The last time a story got to me was in the fall of 1987, when seven people from two families were killed in Elkland, a small town not far from Springfield. I covered the joint funeral service, saw the seven caskets in a row, watched a man carry the coffin with a toddler inside to the grave.

I'd written a story the day after the slayings, when cops thought a 14-year-old boy did it. I interviewed his best friend, who remembered how strange the boy had acted on his last day of life. In my story, the boy was a murderer.

Turned out his uncle did it and framed him for the killings. The teenager was actually a hero, not a monster.

I saw the seven coffins in my dreams for a long time.

But that was a lifetime ago. I covered dozens of murders after that, saw brutalized bodies and scenes of incredible carnage. I wrote from the scenes of deadly tornadoes and fatal fires and never allowed those tragedies to touch me. They were good stories. That's all. Now I see stories of rampage and ruin and the only thing that trips my pulse is wondering whether there's good video and sound. I feel cold inside when I contemplate such things. It's looking at life through detached soul retinas.

Things like Moore don't bother me. That's what bothers me.

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