Every few months, a story comes along that I just can't shake -- even after the last line is written and the story is printed on the page.
Last summer, it was a murder trial -- seeing the young children of a murder victim take the stand is an image I still recall too vividly. And the way the daughter cried when a verdict was finally reached.
In January, a trooper from that very trial killed himself in an intersection of my coverage area. I had had lunch with him, chatted with him, heard about his kids. And then I watched his cruiser towed from the last place he took a breath.
Yesterday and today, I worked on a story honoring/remembering an 18-year-old who died at a local school. He died after celebrating St. Patricks Day and we unfortunately gave his family a final tribute that consisted of a headline with the words "drugs" and "booze." Needless to say, they were devastated, and I've uttered a lot of apologies. And I've listened to a heck of a lot of stories from friends and family, who all talk about his beautiful smile and the way he would make others around him feel important and special. All these stories from someone 7 years younger than me, with a large and bright future ahead of him.
I can't shake that smiling face from picture in my e-mail. I can't ignore the grieving aunt who said the family is barely holding it together. I'm haunted by the best friend who said he just doesn't know what he'll do without his buddy.
I like to think that my connection to my subjects and the stories I share makes me a better reporter than most, able to capture emotional details that make the reader feel like they're there too.
But it comes with a price.
Sleepless nights, horrible dreams, black circles under my eyes and that darned "funk."
But I wake up the next day, take a deep breath and remind myself that I am making a difference, somewhere, and perhaps only to one person.
That's enough for me.