Monday, February 20, 2006

…And Depression Sets In.

Lately – I’ve been in a funk. It seems like nothing I do can shake off the chains that are holding my spirit down. The things that usually make me feel better aren’t, and I think I am too old to find new things to do.

A large part of my job is listening to the police scanners for news, keeping an ear out for fires, robberies, and serious auto accidents. It’s a chorus of tragedy that plays out every day, producing a similar tune in a different key. Often I catalogue the funny stories here – the ones that seem so unlikely and so unusual that they can be spun in a light hearted way. When you deal with misery every day you need to laugh or the weight of it will bury you. Lately I feel like I am getting buried. This is a heart-breaking story, so if you don’t feel like being depressed stop reading now. There’s no punch line, no witty wrap up, nothing at the end of this story but sadness.

It was a Saturday night a few weeks ago. The scanners were quiet except for a few criminal mischief complaints, the occasional domestic violence call, and one or two drug deals. I am the only one at work and settling in to the quiet of the night when it happens. A call cuts through the silence of the newsroom like a knife –a seven year old in full cardiac arrest. I pause and listen again – I think to myself that I could have heard the call wrong. Maybe the scanner crackle changed the age they meant seventy not seven, but then call goes out again. “Seven year old full arrest priority one.” Ambulances are speeding to the scene sirens blaring I can hear them as the responding E.M.T’s radio back to the station. I call 911, to find out more about the call. A seven-year-old boy went in to cardiac arrest after an asthma attack. It’s not news, so I don’t send a crew, but the calls keep coming and I keep listening. It comes together in pieces, Ambulance numbers arriving – codes barked out, a story told in the secret language of police officers and ambulances, then silence. There was no more calls, no longer a need for ambulances or first responders. There was no longer any need to rush, no need to get a hospital bed ready. Code White. There was just silence, the sound of nothingness end a seven year olds life.

But the scanners never stay silent for long. Like I said there is no end to the symphony of tragedy – just endless codas occasionally switching keys, the same story played out a hundred different ways, and my job is to sit there every day and listen.


Blogger Jim said...

Yeah, I actually check this out. Truer words have never been spoken, Trevor. Part of the appeal of doing what I do these days is that I don't have to confront tragedy on a daily basis.

It's amazing how desensitizing this whole business is. I can't tell you the number of fatal accidents, shootings, stabbings, etc. that I had to cover at N10. And in those two years, I went home and cried about a story once. I actually wondered if there was something wrong with me.

If I never have to track down a grief-stricken parent in my career, that time couldn't have come sooner.

February 26, 2006 7:21 PM  

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