Friday, April 10, 2009

Pain and suffering

Sometimes there just isn’t a happy ending to the story. Hope as you might, pray as hard as you can and the story still ends in tragedy. On Monday, hopes were dashed when the body of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu was found in a suitcase dumped into an irrigation pond north of town.

Through the searches, the hours of volunteer work and the police investigation there was that slim chance that Sandra was still alive and would return home. Vigils for Sandra’s safe return turned into moments to mourn her loss. Everywhere I looked you could see the pain and suffering etched into faces of strangers who would make the trip to a memorial in front of her home to remember the slain girl.

It has been a hard few weeks for Tracy and those members of the media gathered to cover the story. What started as a missing person’s case on a Saturday morning has morphed into a manhunt for a murder. There has been a rollercoaster of emotions from the frantic first hours of the search to the somber announcement of her body’s discovery.

It is hard, you can’t imagine how hard covering the grief associated with this story. How many times can you point a camera at a crying family? How many times can you stand at a vigil amid the sobbing and not feel saddened yourself? So you steel yourself against the knots forming in your stomach and look through the viewfinder. The hardest part is talking to these grieving strangers as they weep for a murdered little girl. Sometimes I just can’t bring myself to ask their names and leave them to their sorrow.

Along with the grief that covers this story is the fear gripping the town. Standing across the street from the entrance to the mobile home park where Sandra was last scene I wonder if the killer still lurks there? In the darkness of Clover Road with crime scene tape strung around a small church I wonder what could have happened there? An eerie calm surrounds the searches as FBI crews pour over the scene. It almost seems surreal, surely his could not be happening in my hometown.

But with an army of television cameras everywhere I go and the face of an innocent girl staring back from light poles and business windows I know this really is happening in my hometown. Tracy has been beset with one crisis after another as of late. I keep waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel but everything seems so bleak behind the camera these days.

The night they made the announcement that Sandra’s body had been found I rushed from the press conference to the mobile home park. There a small memorial was already forming for Sandra. After a taking a few pictures of the mourners gathered in the candlelight I walked down the block and called a friend. I was about ready to lose it and I just needed to hear a friendly voice. Sometimes it gets to be just too much to bear.

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