Monday, May 15, 2006

The Tape Rips Your Heart Out

The last four days there have been 9 fatalities that news crews in Vancouver have had to cover. Fatals are unfortunately a fact of the News game. They are never pleasant and often emotionally draining. It is especially bad when the fatal is a child. That is what we had to face on Friday night in Surrey and this morning in east Vancouver.

The call came in sometime after four on Friday afternoon that there had been a child pedestrian struck in Surrey. I was at the time assigned to another story, but as I was working evenings I somehow knew that is where I would end up. I will give full credit to our Surrey shooters when they arrived on the scene. A scene which I am sure was chaotic and charged with raw emotion. I have been to many in my career. Too many. But when the call comes and you know it's fatal, you have the time during the drive to the scene to mentally prepare yourself for the task at hand. You can never fully prepare as you don't know what you are potentially getting into. For those of you who have not experienced this sort of thing, read carefully. Then close your eyes and imagine yourself trying to function during all of this grief.
The guys in Surrey, Shawn and Scotty, both family guys, and believe me they are hurting like everybody else, went about the grim business of collecting video of the scene. Police tape, a truck, distraught neighbours, and police and fire members who are all in a state of shock. REMEMBER, they have families too and most are parents, so quite understandably everybody and I mean everybody is upset.
Covered on the road is the clothing that the little victim had been wearing. The boy had been transported to hospital where he had been pronounced dead on arrival. The boy was 5. The driver had been taken into custody and was allegedly impaired.

When I arrived there, and I fully expected to be there for the rest of my shift, most of the work had been done for me. Both Scotty and Shawn had shot the scene and along with reporter Michelle, had gathered many of the elements that would make up our item for the 11:30. Michelle was quite shaken, she being a mother herself of children of about that age, soldiered on. Remarkable, as I know she was quite torn up inside.
As the day slipped away into evening and the light faded, the Police became more forthcoming and available. Earlier they would not give us anything in the way of clips or information and were quite curt about it, deferring to "official" sources back at HQ, which of course being a Friday night were not available. This was their emotional defense mechanism at work. I don't know how Police, Fire and Ambulance do this on a daily basis, but they do and be glad you don't have too, the emotional toll on them is humbling.
We cut a story and did a Live hit into the 11:30 show. The accident investigators were still there. We packed up and went home and I know each of us gave our kids and extra big hug when we got home.

There was of course going to be a follow up story. That was left up to our weekend crews that went back to the scene, the dead boy's neighbourhood, and faced a daunting emotional challenge.
A little memorial of flowers and toys had begun to grow on that ordinary neighbourhood street. Little cards made by his little friends. Other parents, people from all over stopping by, trying to make sense of it all.
I have been to many similar scenes. It is perhaps tougher than the original calls, because now the victim has a name, friends and family share stories of their loved one. Some even speak to cameras assembled. They give the victim a voice, they give the victim a personality. It's gut wrenching stuff. You would have to be a machine not to have feelings in these situations. Saturday was no different for the crews at this makeshift memorial except the friends were the dead boy's little playmates. Their thoughts and comments to my colleagues were from the heart, brutally honest and had an innocence to them that was particularly profound. "From the mouths of babes"

Later in the day the little boy's parents wanted to speak of their loss. I was not there, but words cannot discribe Mom and Dad's pain. The tape rips your heart out.

This morning another fatal call. This time a fire. This time a mother and her four children. Again crews went to work balancing their own emotional well being and focusing in on telling a story.
Some days I don't know how we do it or get through it.

Here's hoping tomorrow's a better day.

1 comment:

Denys Thibodeau said...

Good day Murman,

Some days aren't quite right. I was in the force for 26 years and I'm retired now. Like you said, dealing with families announcing the death of their loved one or when you are on the scene holding hands of a ejected driver that you know, will die the minute you removed the vehicule over his waist, are really tough moment to pass.

It will never disappear completely of our mind, but it will get less overwhelming as you share those painfull moment. It gives you a ventilation moment and it's a process that we must go trough to keep your sanity.

So keep in mind that you have to let go some of the emotion that you keep accumulating during those not quite right days and by expressing it here, It's part of the process.

Denys from Montreal,