Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Street Corner Specter

I was weaving my way through traffic and eyeing my wallet when the cell phone rang. ‘There goes lunch’ I thought as I read the station’s number on the phone’s bright blue screen.

“Unit Eleven…”

“Hey - I’m gonna need to send you to Broad Avenue in Greensboro. Not sure what’s goin’ on there - but if my codes are right we got a dead kid…”

Cursing under my breath, I pulled a sharp u-turn and gunned the Ford Explorer back toward downtown.

Twelve minutes later, I caught sight of red flashing lights by the corner of Broad and MLK. Parking behind an unmarked Crown Vic, I grabbed my gear and walked toward the scattered police cars. A cluster of uniformed officers milled about on the porch of a small house as an ambulance idled in the sloped driveway. Across the street another cop sat on the stoop and questioned a heavy young woman in a pink housecoat. As the officer scribbled details on a metallic clipboard, I could make out bits and pieces of the woman’s halted, hitching voice.

“ And I said ‘Come on home now! Keysha’s BLUE!’”

I watched the sad passage through the concentrated pixels of my camera’s viewfinder. As the woman blubbered to the cops, I twisted my focal tube a fraction of a millimeter, sharpening the edges of the woman’s pain. Cold-hearted? Perhaps, but its why I hauled ass there in the first place. Rest assured I took no pleasure from my unfettered view, especially when a faded blue sedan pulled up with a screech and parked a few feet in front of me.

Out from the driver’s seat door bounded a large man in a factory gray jumpsuit, his deep voice cracking as he ran toward the woman on the porch.

“Dee, Dee - What Happened Dee?”

Leaping off the porch, the woman sprinted toward the man, leaving the officers on the porch stretching their necks and fingering their holstered weapons. When the man and woman met in the middle of the yard, they collapsed into each other’s arms and sunk to the ground. As they slid downward, their voices heightened in pitch and volume until overwhelming despair rubbed the hard edges off syllables and only the sound of guttural grief remained. On the porch and across the street, the unsmiling uniforms went back to their quiet conversations, leaving the long sad passion play to finish out its latest act.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t shooting anymore.

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Keysha was twelve when she died today. I know precious else about the case, only the scant details the detective shared with me by the corner of Broad and MLK.

“Dead twelve year old, doesn’t look hinky. Family’s all hyped up you bein’ here…”

That was all I needed to hear. Before the mustachioed investigator could turn to walk back to his car, I was collapsing tripod legs and dialing my cell phone.

“I’d can the live truck. This looks to be natural causes. I got VO just in case..”

Walking back to my news unit, I could hear new voices wailing in despair. The footage I shot would never make it to air, and I’ll have forgotten about it myself in a couple of days. But chances are that man and woman will always recall the silent TV cameraman standing at the edge of the yard on the worst day of their lives.

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So how was your day?

11 comments:

newshutr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
newshutr said...

I love those situations where you know that you really shouldn't be there. It's not a story, it's a tragedy. I love going to these types scenes where the family members are screaming at you and threatening bodily harm.

I feel like a schmuck just standing there, waiting for word from the cops or the desk.

beFrank said...

Yeah, I know the feeling. I just try to keep in mind, if it was an easy job or if it was just about taking pictures, then anyone could do what we do.

Doing the job to the best of our abilities regardless of the circumstances is what makes us professionals.

Feeling sorrow over the tragedy suffered by others is what makes us human.

No need to feel like a schmuck. We're never schmucks unless we choose to be.

Keep shooting and blogging. I think you guys rock.

Ken Corn said...

Stew, what a powerful post. I know how you feel. The line about when you stopped shooting blew me away. I'm glad you wrote about it. I find that writing is good for the soul. Keep up the good work.

jamie said...

And how many minutes of agony could the cops have saved these people from? Man they never say it fast enough! Great story.

Billy Jones said...

Wow, strong work. Real life is so much stronger than fiction.

Smitty said...

Another memorable post..

On a day you most likely want to forget. Events like the one you describe.. Happen to many of us out in the field all the time. But I am not sure any of us could recall the details and put them into words, as you do so well, Stew.

Thanks for sharing a piece of your beautiful mind.

Lenslinger said...

Thanks to all for the kind words. This was one of those posts that just sort of seeped out of my fingertips as I hovered over my laptop and tried to watch TV. I'm amazed it's garnered so many comments.

Truth be told, the incident I described is a dime a dozen. As the shooters here have attested, we've all had that uncomfortable feeling of being somewhere we desperately didn't want to be. Consider it an occupational hazard of staring through a lens.

When I first started shooting news, I was awed by the access the camera I carried granted me. Then, over the years, I became almost immune to it, choosing instead to focus on the craft. Now, that my skills are pretty much ingrained in my DNA, I find myself once again in awe of the view again.

For some reason, I really want to share these weird experiences we shooters take for granted with the public at large. This blog is part of that effort, along with a much pined-for book of memoirs that I'm growing convinced will SOMEDAY happen.

Thanks for your help along the way.

whizzle said...

i love you and your works of art.

HockeyPat said...

Another way of looking at it.

By being the focal point of their anger, you may just be giving them an outlet they so desperately need at a time when nothing makes sense, nothing is going to make them feel better and the shock of the event has left them in a confused state.

I’ve watched these broadcasts before and I’ve seen that look of anger and I’ve heard the rage. I always think if that helps them get through the next ten minutes, then God Bless them.

I wonder what I would do if I was in that horrible position.

Ron Hudson said...

Wow...beautifully written, very understated yet powerful.