When I cover a car accident, I go cringing. The first thing I always want to know is, is everyone OK, immediately followed by how can I help.
That may not make me a very good journalist, but I would like to think that it makes me a decent human being.
Being a decent human being is my first concern when I cover a fire, too.
The last time I went to cover a fire I was lucky enough to have recently done an article about a resource I was able to share.
Mom’s Clothes Closet (www.facebook.com/groups/252000001667638/) has helped several families, and not just in times of complete disaster.
After another recent fire claimed all the property of someone I know, I considered a different angle on another story I was writing. I realized we have other agencies people might not think of calling on when their world was just consumed by flames, like Tri-County Ministries (tric-ministry.com).
When I got that call on Saturday, none of those things mattered.
This is the very worst part of this job.
But I did have a job to do, and until I heard the official word, I was going to do it.
When you arrive on a scene you know will be bad, you have to separate yourself.
You have to separate yourself physically, because you need to stay out of the way of the people who are going to make the difference in whether or not you are covering a fatality.
You have to separate yourself emotionally, because they don’t need to deal with your sorrow and anxiety.
You know this is going to be bad.
Knowing that this was going to be bad to begin with, I made the decision to focus on the firefighters.
I thought about the beautiful poignant photos that receive awards that depict a moment of grief, but that is not who I want to be.
Instead I thought about what those firefighters were experiencing. I thought about their training and what it physically took to do their job in that moment.
I made it a point to shoot what might explain to the viewers how intricate and involved their job is, climbing ladders to the tops of flames to direct a heavy hose down to the base, to break through doors and walls to get to the heart of a fire.
I thought about what they must be thinking at a time like this.
Then someone says it’s a child.
This is the very worst part of my job.
Those are the scenes you leave and you wonder how you can possibly continue to do this job.
How on earth do those firefighters do it? Some of them for years.
Some of them have to serve not just their own community but their own family.
There are scenes I leave and I wonder how I can possibly help.
Because as much as my heart aches for the firefighters, there was a family that just lost everything.
Not just every thing. A child is a person’s everything.
A mother can’t just stop being a mother because she is heartbroken.
Not everyone in this position would understand that, and that is part of the reason for me to not give up.
Beanie Taylor is a staff reporter for The Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.