Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Too Close to Home

Posted November 8, 2006

After seventeen years in television news very little affects me. It's not that I don't care about the people and stories that I cover, I do. But when you cover crime on a daily basis you develop a thick skin. It's the only way to survive the horrors of what we hear and witness.

This week I have been working on a story that immediately cut straight to my heart. A pregnant mother was killed in her home Friday. As if this were not horrific enough, her two-year-old child was found in the home with her dead mother. Investigators reported to us that the child was "unharmed." Clearly, this means physically unharmed. But at this point no one knows what psychological and emotional toll this incident has, and will, take on the little girl.

Monday investigators released the 911 tape. On it the child's aunt (who found her sister dead in the home) is talking with the 911 dispatcher about what she sees. At the same time she is speaking with the little girl who can be heard babbling excitedly in the background. The aunt observes that the little girl has repeatedly walked through her mother's blood and tracked bloody footprints throughout the house. No one knows how long the child was alone in the home with her dying mother. We may never know.

As the mother of young children, one very close to this child's age, I had more trouble listening to the 911 tape than I have ever had listening to anything. I went home that night and looked at my three-year-old playing on the floor in front of me and imagined with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat what it would be like for her to experience something so heinous in her young life. The thought that someone could leave a child in a home with her dead mother is incomprehensible to me, and to everyone who has spoken to us about the case, including investigators.

It is at these moments when I wonder how much longer I can keep the ironclad Teflon wall wrapped tightly around my heart when I go to work every day. But the truth is good journalists are human beings first. We are mothers, daughters, friends and wives, people with real-life experience who hopefully bring our humanity to every story we cover. You can separate facts from opinions, but in cases like this one, you can't separate the story from your heart.
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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.