Sunday, November 17, 2013

“News Busted”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Writing about current news stories is thrilling work. Analyzing events as they unfold provides the sort of adrenaline rush that few other experiences can provide. But when the reporter becomes part of the story itself, the natural discipline of a journalist is exploded.
Viewing a ‘perfect storm’ from the inside is disorienting and overwhelming.
Such a happening transpired in my own life, recently.
While heading home to Geauga County from my ‘real job’ I listened to a talk radio broadcast by Clyde Lewis. He spoke about the kind of subject matter that once occupied legendary broadcaster Art Bell. Mentally, I was prepared to arrive home, pop open an adult beverage and enjoy my supper. This routine had become well-established in my life.
Writing projects often took shape in such late hours. But I could not have expected the inspiration that was about to arrive.
The road ahead was dark. Empty shadows obscured the landscape southeast of Thompson. Restless deer waited for a chance to wreak havoc with those traveling in the night. Shadows fell from the trees with shades of moonlight. But nothing suggested a detour from the ordinary.
Then, an emergency vehicle flew past. And another. And another!
When I arrived in my rural neighborhood, the residence park was lit up with flashing, strobe-effect colors of red and blue. Vehicles completely blocked the roadway. Sheriff’s Deputies were everywhere. First responders waited in the electric fog.
My first thought was that there had been a fire. Such incendiary events were all too common among the boxcar residences in our locale. But this supposition proved to be wrong.
A familiar neighbor approached my truck. “You won’t be able to reach your house,” he advised. “Better try to go around the back road.”
I squinted for a better view. “What happened?”
“There was a shooting,” he whispered. “The husband is dead.”
Suddenly, my body clock stopped. Every extraneous thought disappeared. I went completely numb behind the wheel.
“Is it safe in here?” I whispered, while looking straight ahead.
“The police have everything under control,” my neighbor said, with a nod.
It took a moment to regain my concentration. I turned right and circled around the back of our park, taking the long route toward my driveway. People were literally standing in the street, sharing wild speculation about what had transpired.
At home, my dogs were in a rowdy mood.
After a couple of minutes, I joined the nervous group of gawkers. No one had actually witnessed the tragic event. Someone observed that it had been a desperate act of self-defense. I recalled seeing the late husband sitting in his yard chair. Now, that seemed like a vision from many years ago.
Reckless conversation began to flow, under cover of darkness. It made me nervous. I avoided saying too much while the police were investigating. Someone remembered that the couple had suffered from marital distress, in the past. Another thought the husband had limited mobility, and walked with a cane.
An ambulance took the wife away. Much later, the coroner arrived. Eventually, only a few of the original crowd remained. About 1:30 a.m. this small group finally surrendered to fatigue.
The air had turned cold. I went inside at long last, to have my after-work meal. Both dogs were frantic. I took out my iPhone and began to text.

“You won’t believe what happened tonight...”

There were no replies. Everyone I knew was asleep.
Over the weekend, there was no news coverage of the happening. Residents in the neighborhood waited with nervous anticipation. I wondered quietly if the shooting was simply too far ‘off the radar’ of traditional information sources?
But on Tuesday, an avalanche of coverage appeared.
As I was getting ready for work, my neighbor called. “They’re here!” she screeched. “They’re here!”
I barely escaped as a WOIO-19 news crew cornered her for an interview. Like myself, she could offer little useful information. We did not know the couple involved. No one heard anything on the fateful night in question.
Still, the reporter jammed a microphone in her face.
I couldn’t help thinking of Paul Harvey’s famous tagline:

“Stand by for news!”

Friends began to text as I was on duty at my ‘real job.’ Questions were numerous. I pleaded ignorance and assured everyone that I was safe.
After work that night, I read a story about the incident on the Maple Leaf website. There was a link to the 911 call which had already been posted on YouTube. An eerie sense of calm had returned to the neighborhood.
I walked the dogs about 11:00 p.m., with disbelief still scattering my thoughts. Peering into the darkness, I wondered about the families involved.
I prayed silently, for God’s tender embrace.
And then, back inside my house, I began to write.

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