A Story That Must Be Told

I sat alone at the back of the pews, the sweet sound of music echoing throughout the elegant ceiling of the church, soothing my broken heart. The music stopped and a woman passed the brown casket draped in a white sheet.

“Ernie Rizzo was a great man,” she started. “He’s affected many lives.” I looked around at the unknown faces, wondering how he had touched them. I hadn’t even met his family until the night before. Her reflection speech went on, many of the words jumbled in my head, but when she came to “he’s inspired a high school girl to continue with her dreams of being a journalist” I realized that I would never be able to pick up the phone again and dial his number to see what case he had been working on currently.

Rewind. It had been a chilly bright morning when my mother dropped me off at “Papa G’s”. My stomach was doing flips and my knees shook, I had been so nervous and exited to interview this famous private eye from my hometown. He had done cases for OJ Simpson, Michael Jordan, Elian Gonzalez, Michael Jackson, Hugh Hefner, Riley Fox, and many other known celebrities. My eyes glanced around watching for a familiar face that I had seen in many magazines. Finally they landed on the big burly man, I backed away wondering why I had gotten myself into this. I was only a high school reporter for my school newspaper. I was always looking for exciting stories such as a student who had spent a week in the county jail or the police chief going through a drug bust that had gone wrong, but this was beyond that. I couldn’t go back now; it was an opportunity that I had to have.

Hours passed as Mr. Rizzo and I sat that the restaurant table.

“What is a typical day like?” I asked him.

“It’s like being God,” he told me. No longer was his curly hair, baggy pants, and stocky figure intimidating to me, his smile greeted me like I had been his friend forever. We talked about life and all the experiences we had. He shared with me secrets he had never told anyone and I told him how writing about others made me forget about my home life. He shared with me the love for his job and family. His brown eyes glowed with passion for everything he loved in life.

After the article was written Mr. Rizzo and I stayed in touch. Even though Mr. Rizzo only had a few hours of sleep a night, he always had time to pick up the phone to ask me how my life was going. Mr. Rizzo and I had a connection that it seemed like no one else understood. He showed me that no matter how small you are, you still matter. He taught me to catch every opportunity that comes by, no matter how afraid you are. His numerous calls before the article was published, asking when it was coming out because he was so excited for it, just reinforced the idea that to him, I was someone. The day it was published he showed up to school, disheveled from working on a case and no sleep the night before, asking for the article.

I asked him to sign the paper, knowing that it would be something I would value for the rest of my life. I wish I had asked to get a picture with him because I know he would have never said no. But we were friends, I didn’t want a picture to be an end-all. This was the last time I would see him.

“Tara, have you heard?” My newspaper advisor stood in front of me a year after I had written the article. I shook my head quizzically wondering what he was talking about. “That private eye you wrote an article on last year passed away Sunday.” My heart dropped hoping he was joking, but sure enough he had the article to prove it. I couldn’t help but start to cry, the man who taught me that dreams do come true, the man who we all thought was invincible was gone.

Susan Orlean, one of my favorite journalists, once wrote: “Inevitably, though, I lose track of many of the people I’ve written about. It’s one of the part of the job—this “Fun! Interesting! Active! Exciting!” job—that makes me melancholy, I know it’s unrealistic and impractical to think I could stay close to everyone I’ve profiled, and even if I could, we would never be as close as we were when I was writing about them; still, it’s hard not to feel attached to people once you’ve been allowed into their lives. So what I have of them, and always will have, is just that moment we spent together—now preserved on paper, bound between covers, cast out into the world--- and they will never get any older, their faces will never fade, their dreams will still be within reach, and I will forever still be listening as hard as I can.”

Fast forward. After the funeral, after the precession and into the luncheon. I grabbed my coat ready to leave the luncheon, the funeral had been a beautiful one and I had met so many people, still wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Rizzo. I thanked his daughter who I had grown close to since the night before. After giving her a hug she looked at me and said “You know what, I finally figured out why my father liked you so much. He had this intuition in seeing people that are going to be successful someday and he saw that you are truly going to make it big. He could always see things that other people couldn’t.” I walked out of the door, my head was swelling with emotions. They always said that even when the world was against him 97% of the time he was right. I swung open the door of the restaurant and felt the cold air hitting my face. Though my idol was not here with me now he had taught me how to brave the world alone. I was ready.

Mr. Rizzo was one of kind and I see him as a large reason why I am still in journalism. Every time I speak with someone, it surprises me how much people are willing to share their story with me. I know that I would never be able to talk to someone who was going to share my story with the rest of the world, but I guess as my boyfriend tells me, getting to know my life story, “it’s like pulling teeth out of you.”

In the end though, the combination of my life story, the people around me who influence me, and those who are willing to share their story with me, is what makes me a journalist.

It is those people like Mr. Rizzo who I speak to that keep me going. Everyone has a story to tell and each one unique, one no more than the rest.

So to me, I’d like to thank everyone who has ever told me their story and everyone who will tell me their story.

Popular to contrary belief, not all journalists are cold hearted. I care about everyone I interview. I do not and will never do something to intentionally hurt someone.

On Mr. Rizzo’s gravestone it reads “vini, vidi, vici”. I came, I saw, I conquered. I truly believe he did that and now his inspiration will live on in my life forever.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Tara Grimes
Web Statistics