National Salute to Veteran Patients Week

The only way I could describe my visit to the VA Hospital for "National Salute to Veteran Patients Week" is unforgettable.

This week, a few of us from KOMU visited the VA Hospital here in Columbia to thank all those there for their service. We also handed out Valentine's Day cards that kids all over the country had made for them. I loved hearing these people's stories and experiences while serving overseas.

During our visit, we also went up to the care center. We weren't allowed to visit each room separately because there was a virus going around, but as I walked past the veteran's rooms I saw them sitting alone, doing crossword puzzles and watching TV. I really wanted to go up to them and give them a giant hug. It really made my heart break to see them sitting in their rooms all alone...Also visiting with some who could barely speak, much less walk, made me really appreciate my life and what they had done for us.

There was one veteran up there who our anchor/reporter had remembered from one of her many stories on the "Honor Flight." This anchor started raising enough money to do Honor Flights here in Columbia a few years ago. A Honor Flight takes a planeload of WWII veterans to Washington D.C. to see their memorial. For many WWII veterans, before they pass away, many will never even get to see their own memorial. The Honor Flight is a valuable experience for those who go. For this one man, our anchor asked if he could remember his visit there. As he started his story, we weren't sure if he really did remember it, since we didn't have a clue where the story was going. Slowly, but surely, he told us the story of how he remembered getting off the plane and this little 4-year-old girl running up to him and hugging him. She thanked him for his service. He told us this is something he will never forget. Pretty sure most of us in that room were near tears.

I now hold all those stories very close to my heart. It was great to see some of them out and about though interacting with others. Many told us this was the best VA Hospital in the country and the care they've received has been phenomenal. This made me proud of our community.

Being able to do these types of things for my community, makes me value my job as a journalist even more. I loved seeing these people's faces light up and having them know that their service didn't go unnoticed. Because I'm so young I had a few tell me they thought in a town full of college students nobody would care about what they did for their country, but they were so glad to see at least one. It really made my heart melt.

By the end of the visit we made a few friends:

*First picture courtesy of Flagsbay.com

(Life And) Death Through The Eyes Of A Journalist

I was sitting on my bed last night when I heard the fire engine sirens outside my window. I tried to drone out the piercing noise with my music, but I couldn’t. It was then the images came flowing back to me.

I saw my first dead body on Saturday. That’s something I don’t think any journalist ever forgets.

A little after 5:30 on Saturday night news of a structure fire came over the scanner. Police were saying it was on a road near the station. A producer ran outside and sure enough he could see the smoke. I clambered for my camera, jumped in the station car and rushed across the street.

I was one of the first on the scene, even before most of the firefighters. I remember standing on the roadway staring at the gray smoke swirling up into the sky from the mobile home. I saw the flames flying up out of the door; the burning orange inside captivated me. As I stood there for a couple of minutes, I remember thinking “wow this is not good,” but not once did I think someone was still in there.

It wasn’t long before a rush of firefighters came running in. Police cars and personal cars of volunteer firefighters began lining up and down the road near our station. I decided I needed to get closer for better video and climbed up the hill in the deep snow. As soon as I got up the hill I heard a voice behind me. “My son, my son!” I turned around a saw a lady in a blue sweater frantically running towards the home. “My son! That’s my son’s house!” she screamed out. Her distraught face was filled with fear. She stumbled a couple of times trying to get up the hill. A police officer came running towards her and grabbed her by the hand. But she didn’t want to hold his hand; she just wanted to see if her son was all right. Trembling, she kept trying to run towards the house, but the police officer held her back. “Ma'am” he told her. “Ma'am I can’t let you go over there.” “But it’s my son’s house,” she cried out again. She tried bolting for the home again, but she tripped and fell in the snow. But, she didn’t seem to care and began crawling in the snow towards the house. The officer helped her up, grabbed her shoe that had gotten stuck in the snow, and led her over to spot away from the home.

I looked away from the woman and focused back on the camera, trying to get some shots of the firefighters forging their way into the burning home. I had the camera pointed towards the door of the home and that’s when I heard more screams.

“Over here! Over here!” firefighters inside the home yelled out. I zoomed in with my camera and fixated it on the firefighters. I saw a couple of them struggling with something, but because there were so many of them I couldn’t figure out what it was. I kept my camera on them and my eyes staring at the display. When they were a few steps out the door and I looked up from the camera, that’s when I saw it. Two legs dangled from the firefighters’ arms. Black, burnt and limp.

The firefighters placed the man on the ground and surrounded him to see if there was anything they could do. It didn’t take long before they got up and reached for the blue tarp. It was too late. He was gone before they had even gotten inside the home.

I decided to swing the camera around and put the lens on the mother. I watched through the screen as the police officer held the woman’s hand and told her there was nothing they could do. I watched through the viewfinder of the camera as this woman’s whole life came crumbling down. It’s something I know as a journalist I will watch many more times.

I decided to turn the camera back to the house where the firefighters continued to battle the fire. While I was doing this, a police officer came over and told me to try and keep from taping the body. He also told me he would have the fire chief talk with me when he could. Soon other reporters started showing up and I spread the word. No one else had seen the body, but they saw the tarp sitting on the group and they knew.

The body lay there that whole night. Firefighters held up the tarp and surrounded it when they had to have an official look at it…when they had to have the mother identify the body. Finally at the end of the night they wrapped the body up into a brown blanket, put it on the stretcher and carried it off.

After the interview with the fire chief, I had to go back to the station and watch the video over and over. If I had known what the firefighters were pulling out the home I probably wouldn’t have taped it. But I didn’t know, and I had to relive that moment over and over at the station when putting together my VOSOT.


I’ve seen fires before (take a look at my "The Art Of Detaching Yourself From A Story" entry) and I’ve seen car wrecks bad enough for somebody to have died. But, besides funerals, I’ve never seen a dead body. It makes you wonder how firefighters, police officers, military officers do their jobs. Do they become numb to it? Do they feel guilty if they lose someone or do they know they did the best they could? They really are courageous people.

It makes me think of journalists how have to work through crises like Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. They really are courageous people as well.

I’ve lost plenty of loved ones. I even lost a friend in preschool from a fire. But nothing really compares to seeing a dead body being carried away and not knowing what that person was like in life. You only get a glance of them in death.

If I didn’t say it hurt to see the legs just dangling there limp, I’d be lying.

If I didn’t say it made me sick to my stomach watching the video over and over of the firefighters carrying the man, I’d be lying. I just wish I could have put a face and a personality with the name.

If I didn’t say it hurt to see the woman falling in the snow yelling “that’s my son”, I’d be lying.

No journalist wants to meet a person for the first time on the worst day of their life, but it happens. It’s just part of the job.

When covering these stories, we have to "put on our reporter face," and watch death through the eyes of journalist; that means holding in our feelings and focusing on the story at hand. That means getting up the next morning after stories like this one and moving onto the next one. I’ve heard people say journalists are heartless people, but trust me, most of us may look like we move on from stories from this… but we don’t, it will always be embedded in our minds.

The night of the fire, I found out his name was Jerry, but his friends called him Gerald. Now that I know his name, I hope someday, before I leave Columbia, I will run into someone who can tell me something about Gerald’s life. This way I will have memories of not just his death, but of his life.


Breaking News Galore... Well Almost

This past week has been a crazy one, and not just because of the snow! Check out some of my recent work below.

After spending all day in Jefferson City (about a 30 minute drive from the station), I went back to the station to write my script and cut my video. Just before the 5 p.m. newscast I began driving back to Jefferson City for my liveshot. Unfortunately, about halfway there the live truck operator called to me he couldn't get a signal. So back to the station I went to do an onset. After my onset, the live truck operator and master control was able to get a signal, so I raced back to Jefferson City to do my live shot for the 6 p.m. I really want to practice going live, so I was extremely happy about this. It also really made me appreciate the work our live truck operators do. Just another day in the life of a reporter!

Two State Buildings Evacuate In Fear The Roof Could Collapse:

On the way home from the liveshot I passed what looked like a really bad accident. Although I wasn't able to get any info on it (highway patrol was supposed to post a press release and didn't) we still aired it as a VO because it did effect traffic.

I anchored the Saturday newscast as well as visited a car mechanic that day to see if business had increased or not due to the large ice storm. They said since people were still digging their cars out business hadn't increased, but they expected it to this week. Click here to read
"Car Mechanics Gear Up to Deal With Storm Aftermath" or look for it in my anchoring segments below!


Planned Parenthood Video Sparks Debate Over Federal Funding

Due to the large snowstorm, I was able to work for Newsy from home yesterday! Click here to read "Planned Parenthood Video Sparks Debate Over Funding" or watch the video below.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com


Attack Of The Snowpocalypse!!

If snowpocalypse isn't a real word, well then it should be after this week's snowstorm. Most people I know seemed to think it was the end of the world.... If you've been living under a rock, then you may have seen it through a small peephole, but probably haven't heard.... Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures hit 2000 miles of the Midwest and part of the Northeast this week. Two-thirds of the nation faced down power lines, several deaths were reported and thousands of airports made cancellations.

Here in Columbia, we also had a large interstate shut completely down after we received about 18 inches of snow. I experienced driving in my first (complete) white-out conditions, and that's saying a lot because I'm a Chicagoian. On my way home from the station yesterday, I had to remember from memory where the roads were. I drove only about 10 miles per hour the entire way and I'm pretty sure I hurt my car trying to get up a hill covered in at least 6 inches of snow.

Before this took place however... let me take you back to the beginning.

Tuesday morning I was prepared to go out and cover the beginning of the storm for our morning show, but then around 1 a.m. an apartment fire broke out in Columbia. So I ran out with a camera to get some footage and all the details... Thankfully it wasn't that cold out, and it hadn't started snowing yet. In my first few liveshots my hair wasn't blowing widely around just yet. Watch the video below:

The snow was starting to come down really hard and the wind started to pick up a little before 7 a.m. During my last hit I mixed the apartment fire details with a little bit of weather news. As you can see, the wind I was talking about earlier, blew my hair to one side of my head. This next live hit wasn't done very well, but you do get to see some of the video I took from the fire!

Finally at 7 a.m., just when the live truck operator and I thought we could start packing up and heading back, we received news the crew back at the station extended the morning show and wanted us to stay. This time I would be talking about weather. I asked the live truck operator to move the camera so viewers could see the road. Not only could the viewers see the road, but the wind was blowing towards my back and not my face. This also came in exceptionally handy when the producer and director had us stand out there for more than 30 minutes to figure out audio problems. I was definitely covered in snow by then!

Below is my liveshot and also a glance at how the entire KOMU crew came out to help when the snowstorm began to move in. When I got back to the station people were flooding in with their sleeping bags and food, ready to spend the night at the station.

To say the least, I had a great deal of fun helping to cover the snowstorm this week. Our newscasts provided a ton of interaction with the audience and I feel it improved the newscasts a lot when we showed people's pictures and videos they had tweeted. It really got our audience excited and involved. Weather is only fun to cover if you make it fun.

Also this past week I wrote a story on Newsy about how underage sex rings spike during the Super Bowl. Click here to read
"Super Bowl A Magnet For Sex Trafficking" or watch my story below.

Copyright © Tara Grimes
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