Adventures on Horseback: How we serve

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I don’t really know how to write this today.

I wanted to write something about Memorial Day and honoring those who serve.

I wanted to mention the women soldiers. As a reeanctor, I studied and spoke about the women soldiers who disguised as men to fight in the Civil War. I reenacted to honor them.

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But for so many in Polk County, this weekend was not about cookouts and shopping. It was not about flags and speeches.

It was about fleeing for their lives. It was about losing everything they’ve worked for.

For others, it was about trying to help save those in danger. It was about endless long hours of facing danger and devastation to serve others.

For two, it was about getting the story out — and it cost them their lives.

By this date, you probably know that two journalists from WYFF News 4 out of Greenville/Spartanburg died when they were covering storm damage on Highway 176.

Journalists often witness people going through the worst times in their lives. They see tragedy and trauma, and even place themselves in danger. There are recent studies coming out about journalists dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

I have been through a lot in my life — tornadoes, floods, deaths of those close to me, severe injuries, chronic pain and illness. I’ve always believed I was fairly tough, but covering the recent devastation caught me in the gut.

Last week, I was sharing the pictures and stories of the mudslides with my colleagues at the Bulletin. I showed them pictures of footprints in the mud and  of houses destroyed. I talked about a mother fleeing in the dark and the rain with her children — and I broke down.

As journalists, we try not to admit to being affected. After all, we’re not the victims. The people whose stories we tell are so much worse off. The firefighters, first responders and emergency personnel are so much more the heroes.

The journalist’s job is to report the story, not get involved.

But how can I not feel involved when it’s my neighbors who are affected? How can I not offer a spare bedroom when my neighbors have no home? How can I not offer a shower or a place to wash their clothes when they have no water and no power, and they have lost so much?

Journalists are not paid much. We would make much more as a teacher, a deputy sheriff or a bus driver. We are not able to donate much in the way of money to help.

So we try to help in the only way we can — by being a voice.

If you let us, we can be your voice. We can help get the word out, we can get information to others and we can let people know what you need.

If you allow us we can also be the voice of healing. Let us tell the stories that need to be told. Let us tell the stories of heroism and sacrifice. Let us tell the stories of the community coming together to support each other.

It is what we do. It is how some of us give our lives to serve.