It's not something I keep up with, usually, but this has been an unusual two weeks.
I don't know the total for the seven years that I've been shooting, but I've been to more than a couple scenes where people have recently met their ends. Last week I was on call, and I was busy.
The last few rotations had gone by with hardly any calls, maybe even none, so it was no surprise to me when the pager finally warbled its happy tune. That day was a harbinger of things to come.
The week began with a car accident, where the driver was DUI and swerved into the path of an oncoming truck. In a vain attempt to defy physics and occupy the same space at the same time, the greater mass of the truck won out, and the two passengers in the car lost everything.
Early Friday morning I was on the campus of LSU, having been called out to the murder of two doctoral students from India gunned down in an apartment. Apparently they were the victims of opportunity, having let their guard down at the worst possible moment.
Exactly 24 hours later I was recording another scene of twisted metal and rumpled blue tarpaulin. Some unfortunate soul rolled his truck on an empty stretch of highway in the land of jambalaya, and the collapsing roof crushed the life from his body.
Forty-eight hours after that, I was dispatched to the other end of the DMA for a fire in Rosedale that claimed the life of a woman. I arrived just in time for her lifeless body to be loaded into the waiting transport, and to grab a few shots of still smoldering coals.
It was when I handed the pager off to the next guy that it hit me that I had recorded so much of the reaper's work from one Monday to the next. Only interesting to me because I think that is a one-week record for me. Call week was over, but the death card kept getting dealt to me.
Tuesday found me on the road to New Orleans on a story about some missing boaters. Four people went against common sense and Coast Guard advisories and took to the waters of Lake Ponchartrain in a 14' flat-bottomed boat three days before, but weren't reported missing for two days. Two were found alive on the marshy banks, not far from each other, but one was found dead, and the other may or may not have been found yet. I'm pretty sure that if or when he is found, his pulse won't be, thus his inclusion.
Today (Friday) brought be to the breaking point. One more life had been taken in a senseless act that may have far larger repercussions than those of the gunshots responsible. Having arrived long after the scene had been cleared, I searched the ground for clues to direct my lens. When I found them I realized that I was standing on the exact spot where the victim had spent her last few moments pleading for her life.
I had inadvertantly broken one of my rules and stood on the very spot where the victim had died. It's a rule born not of superstition, but of respect for the departed and the family they have left behind.
Having thought about it, this was tough, but probably just the crack that broke the dam, letting the swirling undercurrent of emotion leading up to this holiday pour out. After 10 minutes alone in the privacy of Mobile 16, I was able to finish my day and head into the solace of four days away from the grind.
I think the real underpinning of my stress is that, while we are happy and enjoying this first Christmas with Claire, it's shaded with a tinge of blue. We were supposed to have twice the fun and laughter to share, and we all feel the loss of Chloe, whether we have acknowledged it or not.
We have duly honored her this year, and well continue to in those to come. The real kicker is that she is enjoying the holiday more, because she is sharing the birthday cake with the big J.C. I wonder if they put all 2000 candles on it, or cheat and use the numbers?