Eight years ago when the Sept. 11 attacks happened it was news that consumed our work as reporters for that week and beyond. Even a couple of weeks later a fellow reporter wondered aloud when he would write the first story that wouldn’t include at least one sentence saying something akin to “since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”
For obvious reasons the Haiti earthquake, while devastating and still generating news, didn’t dominate our hearts the way the attacks did. For me professionally it had the most minor of impacts. I happened to be on my regular cops duty the day after the quake, which meant being responsible for any late news coming in. Another reporter had written about Molly Hightower, a 22-year-old former resident of the area whose parents still lived in town. Molly was in Haiti for a year working with disabled orphans.
Molly’s parents were available to the media, following the sage advice that the best way to keep someone concerned about your family member is to keep talking about it. For me I just shared a few e-mails with Molly’s dad Mike. Because I was in the loop that one night, during which I did not have anything to add to the existing story, I continued to receive the media e-mails the Hightowers sent. I was touched by their gratitude. Often it is true, and perhaps with good reason, that families in this kind of situation resent our intrusion. I sent a note right before deadline Wednesday night. “Any news?” Mike Hightower responded that there wasn’t. It wasn’t surprising. They weren’t expecting to hear anything at least until the next day.
On Thursday there were a couple of e-mails saying who would be speaking for the family. Then there was a link to a news story that gave room for some hope that Molly would be found alive.
When I read the e-mails Friday morning, there was this:
“We received the call we did not want, Molly’s body has been recovered.
Thank you for the prayers you all offered and the respect you have shown my family.”
I never knew Molly and only knew her father through the e-mails. Still, the news hurt. Another co-worker, Chris Henry, had written about Molly on the South Kitsap blog and I think accurately described her.
“I did not find a saint. Just an upbeat 22-year-old with a taste for Starbuck’s and Taco Bell, a love of children and a deep well of compassion.”
Over the hours that I had anything to do with this story, I found a video Molly made showing off the kids she was working with. If I were to answer why the news hurt like it did, I’d say, “The video got my hopes up.”