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So what CAN we do?

October 29, 2010 - Jennifer Brookens
Last week's blog was meant to be a light-hearted look at the unusual situations I (along with my fellow reporters) experience as a reporter. But this week was a harsh reminder of the very serious and sometimes scary portion of our jobs.

First off, at the office and at my home, I'm usually listening with one ear tuned to the scanner. Hearing "house fire" on that windy Tuesday, I already knew there was trouble. Just as I turned up the volume, I heard a panicked officer screaming "10-33 (officer down) Shots fired! Hit in the chest" I might as well have been hit in the chest as well. Chaos reigned for the next few hours. A few searches on the property tax website and my back stories told me what I needed to know, even though it all needed to be confirmed by authorities. Facebook and the phone lines were a different story. Pages and texts of speculation from meth lab and drug gangs to domestic drama were flying. A pizza delivery guy was telling his customers that six officers and three civilians were taken out. (Yet when the Sentinel page put one line up about "officer reportedly shot" we got the "Shame on You, You Vultures" treatment. Where's the "hypocrite" button when you need it?!)

What some people may fail to recognize is that we KNOW these people going into the line of fire. Before confirmation of the officer, many faces flashed through my mind, not sure which one of my work acquaintances just got shot. When tragedy has struck in the past, we've mentally detoxed together days later by just talking and reflecting on the events. Some of us have a few light inside jokes, but many of us are on a first-name basis. We've bonded with these people, and it hits us on a personal level, too. Yet, we need to remain professional, keep our heads straight, and try to separate the facts we witness and confirm from the jibberish rumors and gossip. (That's when we get the other end of "Why ISN'T the Sentinel saying this, when the whole town already knows?" Ever get that feeling that you just can't win?!)

But we are fortunate. Our officer and civilian that were attacked are doing well and are expected to recover. No other houses were severely damaged from that arson-set fire. And our town may be just a little more suspicious than we were before. This could be a good or bad thing: it's good to be wise and cautious, but sad because it's another piece of our small-town innocence lost.


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