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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Journalist's Testimony

by Lauren Johnson:

I’m a journalist. Back in 2007, after graduating college, and having a hard time landing my first job, I took off for a reporting workshop in L.A.  It was there that I reported on my first murder.  I wrote about this experience in my journal seven years ago.

“A day I’ll never forget was my second day of field reporting. I reported on my first murder. It was overwhelming … to say the least. The man--Edward Gaucho--was only 19-years old, and was sitting on his porch the previous night with friends when a drive-by shooting took place. I interviewed the LAPD, his neighbors, his brother, and his friend.  We went to Edward’s apartment where his family still resides. His brother showed us Edwards’s graduation photo and told us what a great older brother he was. He and his friend pointed out where the bullet holes in the door and ceiling were. They started arguing over one bullet hole, because the brothers’ friend said it was an old one, "when they shot the other guy." It was hard to think these boys could be no older than 12 and had already seen numerous shootings, one ending in the death of a brother. I realized that if this mother could, she would move her children into a safer environment. Yet, it was obvious she couldn't afford to, nor did she speak any English. 

… Edward's mother stepped out into the hallway, and while she seemed okay with the two of us being there, she didn't want to see the camera. She sat in the hallway, around the corner from where I was reporting, and sobbed uncontrollably. I continued my reporting, repeating my lines for the camera over and over again, pointing out the bullet holes one by one, as I felt tortured by the women's cries, his mother, still in the corner. What felt worst was being a reporter discussing her son’s tragedy so seemingly nonchalantly, because it was my job. I thought, she must hate me, and hate that I am here. When my coach scolded me for not carrying a compact mirror with me to fix my hair (something supposedly all reporters should do--lesson learned), I found a makeshift mirror in the hall by using the reflection of the glass on the fire extinguisher case. Just as I was fixing my hair in the glass, the mother peaked around the corner to see what was going on. I felt awful, feeling nothing could come off as more vain and insensitive than checking out my reflection and primping. Here was a woman who just lost her oldest child because of a drive-by shooting, and I am caring about if my hair is in place.  The woman then went back into her apartment. I knew it. I felt it. She had had it. My vanity had hurt her. … But about 30 seconds later, she reappeared, carrying a large wall mirror from her apartment. She walked over and set it on top of the fire extinguisher case. She looked at me and she smiled. It was a sad smile, one that spoke the smeared make-up under her eyes. But it was a smile that in that moment our hearts connected, and I mustered a deep-felt "gracias" while our eyes searched each other for answers. I am unsure if she ever found her answer, but I found mine. Mother Theresa's quote came into my mind: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other-that man, that woman, that child is my brother and sister." With tears still in her eyes, and no response, she turned away. I primped myself in the lovely mirror she set up for me, and I continued on with my stand-up. Edward, too young to die, has a beautiful mother. A mother so selfless, so humble, so kind, that she finds it within herself to help a reporter out with something as simple as a mirror. The reporter is telling the story of her son’s tragic death. "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not" I don't think I have witnessed a more compassionate act in quite some time, and it is, and always will be, a beautiful reminder of what we, as human beings, can become.”

Since reporting on my first murder, I’ve reported on many more. And although my emotions are more prepared, and I can be more professional, they always have an effect. A more recent murder was Emilie Parker, the little girl who was killed in Connecticut, during the terrible mass shooting. Her parents, from Ogden, had just moved to Newtown month’s prior and Emilie was a 1st grader at Sandy Hook.

Many during that time asked: “If there was a God, How could he let this happen?” While others said: Thank heavens there is a God, and a Christ, and that we know these children are safe in their arms.” Robbie Parker, Emilie’s father was one of these people. He spoke publicly about the tragedy, offering forgiveness, and saying that each person has their freedom to choose, including to choose evil, but that Emily was up in heaven with her arms around the children that were lost.  His choice to speak publicly of his faith comforted millions.

At Emilie’s funeral in Ogden, Utah,  Emilie's Stake President, Dave Checketts, said that faith in Christ tells us that these children ARE safe in His arms. Gary Herbert read from Mosiah, saying that we are to lift one another’s burdens and comfort those that need comfort. He said to remember Emilie and to remember her example, so that we can all say we are friends.

This is why I love the gospel, and where my Savior brings me the greatest comfort. He gives us hope. He brings us forgiveness. He teaches us the power of love, and compassion. He helps me to make sense of tragedy, and my faith in Him gives me peace.

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Lauren Johnson first wrote for the Modern Mormon Men team about being a 32-year-old single. It's sort of a blur, but somehow she found herself engaged later that year, and married at 33. She considers herself a story-teller, and was a television reporter in both Idaho and Salt Lake City, most recently with ABC 4. Some might recognize her as the founder and original host of "The Cultural Hall" podcast. She's now living in Boston, and experiencing what is being a newlywed. She loves the Mormon tradition of calling each other Brother and Sister. Since serving her mission in Cleveland, she prefers Brotha' and Sistah. Sistah Johnson's 2014 New Years Resolutions are to become a better tweeter, and to continue wearing something from a thrift store every single day—something she semi-regrets committing to during the summer of 2013. Twitter: @laurenruthie. Blog:
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credit: Scott Heffernan (used with permission).

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