Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The story behind the story

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

Knocking on the door of a person who just lost a loved one never gets easier.

I’ve covered shootings, drownings, traffic crashes, the list goes on, during my very short career as a reporter. But talking to grieving relatives always gives me goose bumps.

It happened today after I spoke to Toni Dunbar about her slain son on the doorsteps of her Bradenton home.

After identifying myself as a reporter and saying that I just wanted to learn more about her son, she stepped outside and took the time to chat with me for a few minutes.

She spoke of her 26-year-old son’s favorite foods, hobbies and the last words he said to her before leaving home and driving to his death in Palmetto.

One tear rolled down her cheek. “I really wasn’t expecting for them to tell me that he died.”

I walked away with goose bumps on the back of my neck.

Reactions of grieving relatives vary. Sometimes, I sparingly ask questions, letting the person talk uninterrupted. Other times, I carefully nudge them with questions. Some will cry and feel comfortable enough to hug me at the end of an interview. Others will hold their tears and barely glance at me.

Whenever a relative takes the time to open up and talk about their lost loved one, I’m eternally grateful. Because of relatives who decide to talk, reporters are able to tell better, more well-rounded stories.

Those are the stories that matter the most: the ones that not only tell what happened to someone, but also provide a glimpse into a life just lost.

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