The fleet-footed Greek carried some messages in his day, but we’d wager yesterday would have taxed even his godly abilities.
In our trade, honed over decades of labor in police stations and smoke-infused pool rooms, yesterday would go down as a “Code 3 Day” – Lights and Sirens all the way.
The grim crop reaped by yesterday’s field work can be seen on our “Front Page,” a quaint holdover reference from the days we could actually yell “Stop the Presses!” and all eyes would turn to you with expectation and a little bit of jealousy as something “big” unfolded – and it was up to us to figure it out, quickly, and get it into the paper.
It was a tricky, often costly process, editors tapping out the money you were costing them on the back of your chair as you reverse-accessed a frightened office worker, sheltering under her desk as an armed man stalked the building where she worked – firing randomly at anyone he saw.
All of that coming back in a flood as a suburban scenario developed into something else yesterday, people calling and writing to say “he’s shooting” in the same edgy tone as that office worker, the sound of a man yelling clear over her phone, getting closer as he made his way down the halls, shooting as he went: “Pop… pop… pop, pop… pop.”
Our office worker made it, and we made the front page “above the fold,” leaving the paper way late that night with the cold sweat drying on our backs, checking the racks for our story and our byline, senses reeling. One story among many.
Interestingly, almost eerily, voices from our newspapering past checked in with us yesterday as those sirens started to wail again and neighbors reported hearing shots fired… pop… pop. One belonged to a former SWAT officer, following our news alerts, and he was quiet for a minute before he said something we felt he might say: “Actually,” he wrote. “(I) miss this stuff!”
Old War Horses. Put out to pasture.
Sadly, one terrible story evolved into another yesterday, with today’s police and emergency people stressed and hurting after their own contact with people they’ll probably never be able to forget – their own memories forged by individual traumas and moments frozen forever in their minds.
One of our photographers raced from scene to scene, recording the sense of confusion and loss as new incidents continued to stack up through the night, more reports of barricaded suspects and guns and police planning to breach a room with something unknown on the other side of the door.
“Golly,” he wrote late in the busy night. “When will it stop?”
We don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see – and keep carrying the message.