Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Amber DuBois

On tough news days, like today, getting one of those little life moments that make you smile is really a gift.

I’m in San Diego again covering the continuing John Gardner case, the sex offender accused of killing Chelsea King and now suspected of killing Amber DuBois whose remains were found on Saturday. Downtown San Diego is filled with homeless people, most of them not quite all there. This morning, while walking from our news van to the courthouse—totally sleep deprived and emotionally exhausted—a homeless man sitting against a building says to me, “I like your outfit.” It instantly took me out of the moment and made me smile. Here this man, who is holding a sign for money, who is missing most of his teeth, and who has the sun and alcohol reddened face of the homeless, put a much needed smile on my face. I wish I’d have had something to give him. Since I didn’t, I gave him a smile and a thank you instead of walking past as if I hadn’t heard. Probably not what he wanted, but the best I could do.

The toughest part of blogging about my profession is that generally it will be bad news. I could say it’s what we’ve become, but really, it’s what we’ve always been: The bearers of bad news.

So I contemplated skipping this entry, skipping the very sad story of another group of pained mourners. Last night we covered our second candlelight vigil for a dead teen in a week, this time, for fourteen-year-old Amber DuBois, probably killed by the same murdering sex-offender who killed Chelsea King, last week’s murdered girl. Another double shift filled with sadness. I had to keep telling myself, “Just get through the day.” And I did, through the 5pm newscast, the 6, and the 11. Part of why I contemplated skipping the entry is because I feel selfish for talking about the affect on me because who am I to talk? I’m merely covering the story. I didn’t know either girl. I’m not family. How must they feel?

Today we stepped away from the sadness a bit, just like the parents of both murdered girls are doing. They all want action. They want laws changed. Gardner never should have been free to commit these crimes. Our coverage focused on John Gardner, the accused killer, and where the gaps in the system failed Amber and Chelsea.

He was in court this morning for a status hearing, and we were there. I watched him. His eyes never stopped moving and he rarely looked up. But he doesn’t look like someone you would peg as a murdering sex-offender. He looks like a guy you’d drink a beer with. Or see on a construction site—proving there is no profile, no standard. If this guy approached me, my hackles wouldn’t go up. And that’s bad. Sadly, giving your trust can sometimes be fatal.

But I also know, I still will. I won't be stupid, or at least I'll try not to, but I'm not going to stop giving a smile to a stranger for paying me a compliment.

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