It would take a lot to push me to the point of wanting to walk away from delivering the news but on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, it nearly happened.
It would take a lot to push me to the point of wanting to walk away from delivering the news but on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, it nearly happened. Our 12 noon newscast that day started in much the same way most of them do: top stories of the morning, weather, but then came word of "breaking news."
Journalists who cover breaking news stories will tell you there is an amazing rush. It is a feeling that can be quite professionally rewarding. This is especially true when you consider the electronic media reports in a 24-hour news cycle, because we are able to provide viewers with constant updates. Over the course of my career, I have reported all kinds of breaking news stories: train and plane crashes, prison riots, fires, and yes, even one of the first school shootings to make major news - the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999.
Please understand the excitement is not about relishing another's tragedy. For me, it is passion for the craft of journalism - I do enjoy my work. In 2002, when I became a mother, it changed as I worked to uncover more than the facts of a story. My capacity to empathize with those we cover expanded greatly.
It was one of the first images out of the Newtown shootings that stayed with me. You've seen it, I'm sure: A group of children is running, in single file (probably just like they'd practiced during drills) and their little faces are filled with fear and anguish. All I could think about was "Who would do such a thing?" and then about how horrifying it all was for all of those families. My time for consideration was short as we were in the middle of the newscast. It was my job to inform, but in that moment I only wanted to cry and pick my child up from school. People who were watching 10TV News at Noon on that day nearly saw me get up to go do just that. The crime was so awful and outrageous that I took off my reporter hat and, like many across the country, viewed the events as a parent. I could barely hold back the tears and could not catch my breath. You hate to even think about it, sending your children to school where they encounter a monster and there is nothing you can do to save them.
To this moment as I write this column, there is still a sting. I'm grateful to our school principal for sending parents e-mails on that day (and afterward), filled with information on how to talk about the Newtown tragedy with our children and to reassure families of safety measures in place at school.
We may never know what drove Adam Lanza to that deadly killing spree. Questions and debates remain over whether teachers should be armed in school or if tighter gun laws will prevent another tragic school day. But one thing is certain - our children and their teachers deserve better.
-Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.