I used to be Alison Parker, the television reporter, who was senselessly killed on live television in Virginia.
I used to be that enthusiastic 24 year old reporter at the Grand Rapids Press who was thrilled about every assignment and every event I covered. You can see it in her smile. You can see it in the way she touched people at such a young age. She loved her job. She was growing in her job and there was so much fun for her to discover.
When you are that young you are still developing your craft. You make silly mistakes but you learn from them. You meet nice people that you look forward to talking to again. You feel as if your stories are making a small difference in the world, even if you are covering a high football game on a Friday night.
The WDBJ reporter dated someone at the station who understands you might have to work Saturday night when everybody else is having a good time.
She loved spicy Mexican food. I loved less spicy Mexican food. But her story reminded me of the times in Grand Rapids when young journalists and editors my age from the Grand Rapids Press gathered at a local Mexican watering hole Friday night after work for nachos and margaritas. We talked about the games we saw and the people we met. We talked about our futures and joked about working together at the New York Times.
I can almost guarantee the dream of working at ABC or CNN came up during crazy nights with fellow journalists.
We develop a bond because our work schedules are so crazy at times. The rest of the world does not understand us and sometimes does not like us. But we love it because we enjoy a front row seat to the world. I am so fortunate that I got to enjoy the rest of my career in newspaper and radio.
Alison did not live many of her dreams.
Please return Friday for the second part of my three-part tribute.