Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Miracles Do Happen

Posted December 22, 2007

Most days I get to be a bit player in someone's tragedy.  I cover death on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.  I've got to admit it takes a toll on my  soul.  But every once in awhile I get to witness a miracle and prove my cynical self wrong.  That's what I call a good news day.  I've only had a handful of them in my career, but I never forget a single one.

Ion Palanciuc was my good news day for 2007 and his family's Christmas miracle.  The 82-year-old, who does not speak English, went out for a walk this week and vanished.   Immediately ,the Raleigh Police sprang into action searching the woods near his home on foot, on horseback and on four-wheelers.  They canvassed the neighborhood, handed out fliers, and used the Highway Patrol helicopter to search from the air.  With every passing hour the chances of finding Palanciuc alive grew less likely.  After all, the temperatures had dipped below the previous night.  How could he have survived when he wasn't dressed for the extreme temperatures?  He was of sound mind, but he couldn't speak English.  Could someone have taken advantage of him, tried to rob him, hurt him?  These were the things going through my mind and I'm sure through the minds of the police officers involved in the search.

I interviewed Palanciuc's family and like most families who are searching for a loved on they tried to remain hopeful.  But late in the day after nearly twenty-four hours had passed I saw a weary look on their sad faces, a look that said they knew this might not end well.  From my experience they usually don't.   I was on the edge of the woods when Raleigh Police found the body of a missing woman with Alzheimer's face down in a bog several months ago.  It wasn't the first time I had seen a missing person story end this way, in profound tragedy for the family.  After eighteen years in the business I've now come to expect these endings.

But Ion Palanciuc did the unexpected.  He came home alive.  Just as we were signing off from our news story in front of his house at 5:00 on Wednesday I saw the family scramble out of the house and jump into their cars.  We followed.  And there he was, right around the corner from his house sitting in the back of a police car talking to several officers.  I almost had to pinch myself.  I quickly ran over to his granddaughter who was standing by the car and asked her if it was him.  She nodded with an amazed look on her face much like mine I'm sure.  "He's fine she said, he just has a headache."  As it turned out a couple who had seen the news reports felt compelled to set out with their baby in the car seat and drive around looking for him.  They found him walking just two blocks from his home.

After being checked out at the hospital Palanciuc was reunited with his family.  The Christmas lights, the decorated Christmas tree and the manger scene by the fireplace were waiting for his homecoming.  A happy ending, something we don't get everyday.  Yes Amanda, there are such things as miracles....

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.