I’ve always dreaded showing up at the scene of fires, wrecks and other breaking news as a reporter.
Showing up as a friend is worse.
Around midnight Labor Day, two of my closest friends – extended family in tow – returned home to find flames shooting through the roof of the place they’d lived for 15 years.
Despite the efforts of a neighbor, family members and four fire departments, the home was a total loss.
Fortunately, no one was injured. But the only home Delia and Miguel’s younger sisters – 14 and 5 years old – have ever known is gone.
I was not on scanner duty. Instead of pen and paper, I arrived armed with hugs and a pitiful attempt at comfort that I had scrounged together. It wasn’t any less uncomfortable.
But it was familiar.
As reporters, we often cover heartwrenching stories like this. But in addition to not personally attaching ourselves, we seldom delve into what happens after the last fire truck leaves – the sifting through the ashes for prized possessions and the starting all over.
The mountain of insurance paperwork, being displaced to a hotel room, seeking out temporary living arrangements while a rebuilding plan is devised – these are the things Delia and Miguel and their family have faced in the days following the tragedy.
It’s a heartbreaking situation, even if you’re just reporting. But because it involves someone you care about, it’s particularly tough.
How do you help your best friends help their family start anew?
Delia and Miguel and their parents and sisters are hardworking, strong-willed, determined and, above all, united. There is no doubt in my mind that they will rise above, rebuild and move on stronger than before.
I just hate that they have to.
Erika Pedroza is a Messenger reporter.