Unlike, say - Weaver - I haven’t been to the mountains this week. But with a local 12 year old missing in steep terrain ninety minutes away, it was only a matter of time until I saddled up and headed West. Or so I thought. This morning, as I whittled footage of a certain bald singer, the newsroom exploded. Suddenly co-workers scrambled this way and that as shards of broken news fell over the cubicle farm. Dropping to the floor, I low crawled past the anchors’ desks and dodged scanner fire until I made it to the feed room. There the morning editor hunkered over an open timeline as raw footage poured in through multiple satellite windows. Wedged up under an equipment rack, I watched in silence as flickering images played out on every screen. Searchers scurrying up a hill. Men in camouflage waving walkie-talkies. A lady forest ranger grinning into a bank of microphones. Lying there in the dust-bunnies, I realized that 1.) Michael Auberry was freakin’ alive and 2.) that I could stop hiding from the assignment desk. Feeling all warm inside, I decided to rise - even before a passing janitor jabbed me with a broom handle.
Back in the edit bay, I thought about the missing kid cases I’ve covered and how very few of them ended in anything less than misery. The latest example was just last September - when a week-long hunt for two young Danbury brothers came to a sad halt when a couple of lifeless forms were found upriver. I was there that day. The pall that fell over Search Headquarters when the bad news broke was the kind that sucks the wind out of your local lenslinger - even while scrambling to interview teary-eyed neighbors. Too much of that, I’ve found, erodes the soul. Thus, I faded into the background when the suits began dispatching crews up the mountain. It’s not that I can’t handle the ninety minute drive, the steepest of schleps, the familair halitosis of your most cadaver dogs. No Sir, I can cope and focus simultaneously while still finding time to dig on the view. But when you’re in it for the long haul like me, there’s never a shortage of tragedies and chasms. The sheer odds of doing what I do guarantee my presence at more calamities than I can ever pretend to forget. So understand if I don’t volunteer every time one invades the local consciousness.
Damn, I sound selfish. A young Boy Scout goes missing and I worry only about my own well-being. Untrue. I got kids myself. In fact, before I low-crawled my way through the newsroom this morning, I dialed up the wife and gave her the good news. Her joyful shrieks would have you believe we know the family in question. We don’t. But my wife - who harbors a healthy disdain for TV news - never questions her gut feelings. Its what makes her a kick-ass nurse and a champion Mother. So it was with my bride that I commiserated on the goodness of it all - before stashing my phone and my feelings. That’s nothing I’m proud of - but a gift for disconnecting comes in handy when you quiz victims for a living. That way, when the stories at hand veer off into the utterly senseless, it does not jar the psyche quite as bad. So forgive my melancholy; it is a warm, protective cloak. Should I dare to ever shed it, I might not feel so damn guilty about being happy for all the wrong reasons.
But then what would I blog about?