Ghosts…

We all have them. Faces…voices…memories of past lives, past relationships….past……..

If you are a newsie, the images are strong, the memories can grab your gut. For an instant, you are back there…laughing, crying, silent in shock…reliving….

I don’t know why, but this weekend was a weekend for reflecting and remembering. Mentioned to a fellow teacher a week or so ago I’d worked with Randy Shilts and I got the look. If you’ve worked in news with any known personality, the look is a bit awed and incredulous. I touched the hem of a god (or goddess) just by sitting in a car with them.

So when I slowed down over the three day weekend (Thank you President Lincoln), I began to think about the people I’ve worked alongside and opposite…folks who were friends or just strangers passing by in a story or on the road.

There was a time when I never thought about death, despite seeing and covering it daily. After all, I wasn’t part of the mix…I was a news photographer. Newsies covered the news – we never became the news. Then I had to write the story of an Oakland Tribune photographer hit by a train. A silly slip – he was so focused on getting his shots he didn’t see the oncoming train. Then Jonestown. Two photographers down and I knew them both casually from stories we’d worked together. Bob Brown and Greg Robinson. Dead on an airstrip. Will Soby/KTVU. Dead of a heart attack. Willie Kee…that was a hard one. A gruff tough guy – too short to get in the military, but a proud Marine nonetheless. Dead from living life too hard and ignoring the consequences.

And the reporters. Randy Shilts. George Duscheck. Pat Davis.
The citizens/our public. The gas station attendant I talked with several times a week after topping off my newscar tank. One day I filled up and the within an hour was back recording the paramedics as they wheeled him off to die. Some idiot who tried to defend his right to steal some cash and beer took him out. San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk – the latter a gentle laughing man. Both gunned down by Supervisor Dan White.

These ghosts come back at times to haunt. They flit into consciousness – stabbing with their vividness and then fade away.

It’s been a month since I began this posting. Couldn’t end it. But the ghosts came back three weeks ago. I walked out of the studio at my school – looked over the baseball fields and saw the ambulances. I knew instantly it was bad. Solo car full of teen-aged boys. Three dead. My DMC (digital media club) members were with me and wanted to get closer and I couldn’t move and I didn’t want them exposed too young to too much. When the club meeting was over, the ghosts returned. It was at that point I realized yet another reason I couldn’t work in the daily mix of television news…in the past I would have grabbed gear and raced over to document the tragedy. This time I just wanted to shut the doors and pretend it didn’t happen. Yes, there are good reasons to cover these stories. Yes, the public needs to know what happened and how to prevent future occurences. But others will have to be there to cover these events. I’m too busy staring down ghosts…

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