Dealing With The Deaths Of Those You Meet On The Job

Just the other day I was thinking about how I should start blogging again. Obviously this blog is about my journalistic experiences, which can be very difficult to write about because you must be careful with every word you write or it could be taken out of context. I think that’s why it’s been awhile. I get too paranoid about sharing how I feel. But today would be a good day for me to write. When I say that I mean, writing is healing to me, and I think I really need that right now.

Today has been draining to say the least. For those of you not living in this area, the biggest story of the day was the death of our local assemblyman Bill Nojay. Bill died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound at the cemetery this morning.

One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about journalists is we don’t care or we don’t feel. This is the furthest from the truth, at least for the journalists I know personally. In fact, the reason why my colleagues and I got into this career, is because we care so much and we want to make a difference. We want to share others’ stories and by doing so provide our viewers with a different perspective on life. You may think aspects of our job don’t bother us, like knocking on doors of those who just loved their loved ones or being on the scene of a gruesome crash, but whether we force ourselves not to feel it at the time, it does impact us in one way or another.

Understandably we are not able to share our feelings on stories. That is, of course, because our job is present facts, not feelings or opinions. I’m not a very opinionated person, so I suppose that’s why this job suits me so well.

However, this doesn’t mean we don’t make connections with the people we speak to while out covering stories. When I show up to an interview, I’m not just plopping down the camera and rigidly asking them the questions without getting to know the interviewee personally. I want to know how their day is going. I want to know what they are passionate about. I want to know how their family is. I’m not there just to ask a few questions. I’m there to learn more about those in my community on a deeper level. Because of this I feel like I have made friends in places far and wide.

Regardless of what lead Bill to take his life, he was still a person my colleagues and I got to know very well. I felt sick to my stomach when I found out what had happened. Every time I talked to Bill he was always upbeat and very nice to me. It’s hard to watch his friends and others in the community suffering from this.

(Co-worker interviewing Bill Nojay back in April at the Trump Rally. I am behind the camera) 

His death has not only shaken me, but it’s made me think a lot. I have lost so many more people that I have met on the job than I ever could have imagined. The way I found out about each of their deaths still feels like yesterday.

I remember when Larry Glazer and his wife died when their plane went down off the coast of Jamaica. When my station told me they had learned the plane was registered to Buckingham Properties, but didn’t know yet what Rochester resident was on the plane, I just knew it was him. Larry and I had just spoken weeks before about his passion for flying while I interviewed him for an unrelated story. He had shared with me all the ideas he had gathered from places he flew to that he wanted to implement in Rochester. This tragedy left me in shock for days.

The first loss I experienced from someone I had met while writing a story was in high school. I became really close with private investigator from our town who worked on major cases like OJ Simpson’s murder trial, Elian Gonzales’s immigration case, and Laci Peterson’s murder case. I spent hours with him learning about his life and he ended up becoming one of my driving forces to continue on with journalism. It wasn’t long after the article was published I learned he had passed. His death impacted me for years and I still think about how he changed my life, especially during a time when I needed it.

Since then I’ve found every death I’ve experienced from those I’ve met on the job has been difficult. The biggest reason why I think I feel this way is simple: these people let me into their lives and trusted me to share their story. They spent the time opening up to me and sharing some of their most personal thoughts. And it doesn’t just end there. In turn, I spend hours shooting, writing, and editing their story. Sometimes at the end of the day, all of this makes me feel like I’ve known them forever. 

Now, I want to dedicate this blog post in memory of those who have passed that I got to know while working. To Bill, Larry and Ernie. To Gurnal Jones, who allowed me into his home to learn about his extremely rare sickness that ultimately took his life. To Cascade County Sheriff Deputy Joe Dunn, who was killed in the line of duty, but whom I got to know while covering courts. To Rodger McConnell, who allowed me to share his story as he fought tirelessly for homeless veterans in Great Falls. To my really good friend Sam Muratore, who I also met while doing a story and passed last year from natural causes. To Ange Vohs, who gave me and KRTV so much love and support, but passed away in a car accident this past February.

With the thousands of people I have met through my job, it’s hard to imagine there are many more I don’t know about that have passed… but for now I’d like to say thank you all for letting me share your stories. I feel honored to know I was a part of your lives.

Rest in peace my friends.
Copyright © Tara Grimes
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