Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Killing Potential

Posted June 20, 2008

Nothing is more disturbing as a journalist than covering the death of a child, but it is even more disturbing when people start to see this phenomenon as the norm rather than the exception.

14-year-old Damien Dunn was killed Friday night, June 13, at a home not far from his home in Raleigh's Walnut Terrace community.  His young friends dressed like grown men in starched button-down shirts and ties walked down Walnut Street as they prepared to be pallbearers at Dunn's funeral.  Even at the tender ages of thirteen, fourteen and fifteen it was clear to me these young men had seen death before and expected to see it again.  Sure, they said all of the right things about Dunn being a good kid, a kid who never got into trouble, a kid everyone liked, but in their remorse there was also resignation that sometimes people die.   It made me sad to think these young men  didn't see the death of a young person as an unusual occurrence, but perhaps as a potential risk they all face in their daily lives.

Dunn was a seventh grader at West Cary Middle School who worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Raleigh and played drums in the Helping Hand Mission Marching Band.  The head of the Helping Hand Mission, Sylvia Wiggins, said Dunn was a cheerful person, a talented musician, a leader.  But one thing she said really struck me.  I asked her what was lost the day Dunn died- she said potential. 

Until we as a community start seeing potential in all children the pattern will continue.  Once again I don't have the answers, but as a parent I think I have an obligation to try and find them.

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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.