Covering tragedies is never easy or enjoyable for any journalist - in spite of how it's portrayed in the entertainment world. When a tragedy involves children and strikes close to home, it's even tougher.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, I ended my shift as picture editor in the newsroom and arrived at my Cockeysville home just as I would on any normal evening. My fiancee had cooked dinner several hours earlier and I warmed my leftovers. Her teenage son had a couple of friends over for the evening and they were playing cards and listening to hip-hop music on iTunes. I was glad to be home.
An hour or so later, the newsroom called and asked me to cover a breaking news event, a possible multiple homicide. It was on a street that sounded familiar, but beyond that I was unaware of what was to come. I did not connect the dots on the significance of Powers Avenue until I had taken some pictures of police officers standing along the street, outside mobile crime labs illuminated by powerful outdoor lights and TV cameras on tripods.
The media were kept about 70 yards away from the home, and after taking a few shots with a telephoto lens of the police I realized where I was. That's when the personal agony settled in. It was the home of John Browning and his family - people I had known for several years through the Boy Scout troop of my fiancee's son.
It was too painful to stay long and take pictures, so I headed home, wondering how I would break the news to my loved ones, who had known the Browning family for at least six years. As the newspaper's deadline loomed, I sat quiet and depressed in the car outside my home, and dreaded having to go inside. Eventually, I built the courage to face them. Without further elaboration, hearts were broken - and still are for all three of us.
Mr. Browning (as he was known to the troop) and his family were wonderful, sincere people who cared about everyone in the troop they loved so much. They will be missed forever, but the troop will survive and prosper in the hands of the many caring parents who make it a great place for their sons. My guess is that it will grow in coming years in the Brownings' memory.
As for me, the Browning deaths were so personal and painful that I have been excused - at my request - from coverage of the story.