It's happened again. Another baby left to die in a car. It's the top story on the home page of The Chronicle's web site. I imagine if I'd turned on the news last night, it would have been on all the TV stations, as well. Probably also in the first segment. What it means for me is another news blackout day.
I haven't read the story. I won't read it. Because my heart won't let me. Because I can't read about it without shedding tears. Just like I can't read about the little boy who drowned at Great America. That was big news all around here, especially when the mother later came out and blamed Great America. Both stories were huge in The Chronicle and everywhere you turned. But I didn't read about it.
When I worked at The Chronicle and would attend the story budget meetings, I would have to steel myself for all the tragedies that would be discussed. In general, you wouldn't catch a hint of emotion from anyone telling of the stories being worked on for the paper the next day. The woman throwing three kids in the bay. The car bombings in Iraq. Soldiers dying. People beheaded. Pregnant women murdered. All told detachedly, matter-of-factly.
I understand why. The reporters and editors couldn't function if they got emotionally involved in the horrific tales being told. More often than not, they were writing obituaries. They just weren't being put with the death notices. They were being put on the front page or the Bay Area section front.
For me, though, I'd feel my heart bursting sometimes. It was at its worst when I worked to put together a "town hall" type meeting with the survivors of soldiers who had died in Iraq. That was in August of 2005, when there were "just" 50 dead from the Bay Area. I talked to mothers and fathers and wives and children. I talked to Cindy Sheehan many times, long before she became hero or pariah (depending on your stance).
Mostly, though, I didn't talk to them. I listened to them. I cried with them. I cried a lot with them. And I cried a lot when I wasn't with them. And I went home after it was all done, and I hugged my children more than ever. I think I loved them more than ever before.
I stay away from the news now. Oh, I still go to SFGate each morning and a number of times during the day. And I get The Chronicle and the Marin Independent Journal. But the stories that are on the front page? I usually don't read them. I can tell from the headline if it's something I'm going to read. But sometimes, even the headline is too much.