HALL COLUMN: Tragedy affects all of us

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The hardest part of our job is covering something like what we did yesterday morning. No matter how detached journalists are supposed to stay from a story, it is near impossible when it comes to a tragedy that claims innocent life.

During my career, I&8217;ve covered murders, accidents and suicides &8212; and I&8217;ve interviewed family and friends of all the victims.

You might think one would be worse than the other, but it&8217;s not. The people left behind all grieve, and it is heart-wrenching to watch.

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Charlie Partridge, an advertising consultant and photographer for us, was visibly moved Tuesday morning when I came in. He wanted to head to the site and shoot photos. There was no way I was turning him down, despite the fact that we had staff writer Jamie Alich dispatched to the scene.

All day the weight of what happened weighed on the office &8212; especially Alich as she covered the story.

I was able to talk to two family friends of Jeremy Marlow. They spoke on behalf of his family &8212; his mother, father, wife and daughter.

The family and friends of Clark Pickle were not able to talk. A woman who answered the phone paused to consider an interview, but she just couldn&8217;t bring herself to do it. That&8217;s understandable.

Nonetheless, we were able to get a few personal details about each one of the victims, and we&8217;ll do a little more tomorrow.

It&8217;s my belief that the accident &8212; or murder or suicide or whatever the case may be &8212; is only part of a story. The rest of the story &8212; indeed the heart of the story &8212; is who was lost in any given tragedy.

In Marlow, the father of a 5-year-old daughter was lost. It&8217;s our understanding that his tragic death was the second time his father-in-law lost a son-in-law.

In Pickle, a young woman lost her fiance. This was a man at the beginning of the rest of his life, someone who had found new passions in his wife-to-be and in his church.

Those are the stories. That is what needs to be remembered. By next week, the 14-vehicle pile up will not be news, but the families and friends will still be grieving.

I see it as the duty of this newspaper to chronicle the lives and events of our communities. In that sense, when tragedy strikes as it did, it is my opinion that The Demopolis Times &8212; and all newspapers &8212; are obligated to capture for prosperity&8217;s sake the marks left behind by those who were lost.

Many of you know that The Blackbelt Gazette and The Times are both owned &8212; at least in part &8212; by Boone Newspapers Inc. That makes us &8212; as we refer to ourselves &8212; cousin (not so much sister) newspapers. At the end of the day, however, we are competitors.

Yesterday, we were not. Yesterday, we had one common goal: inform the public of what happened and provide a lasting memorial to those who were lost.

Marlow&8217;s mother, Janet, is the advertising manager at The Gazette. Our deepest sympathies go out to Janet, her husband, her daughter-in-law, her granddaughter and all those touched by the death of her son.

Likewise, we have thought much about Pickle&8217;s family and friends. Buddy Pickle is the postmaster here in Demopolis, and our circulation manager, Darrel McIlwain, has developed a working friendship with him over the years.

For those of us separated from the tragedy, we can only say a silent prayer of peace for the grieving. We cannot fully understand &8212; nor do we honestly want to understand &8212; what they must be going through.

And as we go along, as The Times continues to cover the tragedies that may strike our area &8212; and may they be few and far between &8212; we&8217;ll continue to try and find the heart of what has been lost, not just the cold facts.

One last thought before I close. We heard rumor after rumor yesterday morning as the facts unfolded. At one time, we heard reports of as many as eight deaths, including a young mother whose baby survived in the backseat.

We remind you that in time of uncertainty and tragedy, rumor only incites disorder and anxiety. Do your part not to pass along unfounded rumors. We&8217;ll be the first to stand up and say, &8220;We don&8217;t know,&8221; if in fact we do not.

Once we do, so will you.

May the Lord bless the friends and families of Jeremy Marlow and Clark Pickle. God&8217;s speed, young men.

Sam R. Hall is editor and publisher of The Times. He can be reached by e-mail to sam.hall@demopolistimes.com.