There was something about the short news brief on our website that caught my eye. A teenage girl had died in a two-vehicle accident on a state highway the previous day. Friends were organizing a last minute candlelight vigil in the girl’s honor. Lorissa Green, a 16-years-old Cheney, Washington resident died when the car she was driving collided with a pickup truck as she crossed a busy highway.
Usually, candlelight vigils do not interest me much. But that little voice in my head was going off: “You need to be there Colin, you need to be there.” It was my day off, and weekends are not good for web traffic at my newspaper I countered. Still, I fidgeted about going out in the cold night air. My 13-year-old daughter Brenna finally told me to, “just go Dad”. “You need to be there with your camera,” she said. Maybe having two teenage daughters of my own was the reason I was drawn to this tragedy. They will be driving soon, which ages me to think about it. The thought of them making a fleeting mistake–like not watching for oncoming traffic–is bone chilling.
I thought a lot on my drive to the vigil how I was going to cover this. I first thought about themes.
- Community coming together
- Shock and grief
About 100 fellow students, parents, friends and family of Lorissa Green gathered in a parking lot near where the accident occurred. I started out getting b-roll of candles being handed out. There was emotion everywhere. Visual moments came easy. People seemed ok with me shooting them as tears flowed and candles flickered in cold hands. The sister of the Lorissa gave a tearful thank you to the crowd gathered. I put my video camera on a tripod and did some interviews with friends of Lorissa.
Then something happened that made this vigil different than the dozen or so I’ve covered as a still shooter. Small groups walked the down the dark road to the intersection where Lorissa’s accident occurred. A Washington State Patrol Trooper escorted them across the highway to the median where they placed flowers and lit candles in the snow bank. It was emotional, haunting and just plain sad. These flickering lights in the median must have startled drivers as they passed the dark intersection.
As I returned to the vigil, Lorissa’s mother arrived. She lit a candle. I asked her for an interview, but her daughter said she’d rather I speak to her. I got my ender sound bite from her talking about how incredible it was to have all these people come and honor her sister.
That’s what this story was really about I decided. On the drive home I started to write some narrative in my head. I didn’t have much of a hard news story. That had already been reported anyway. I find video storytelling is so different than the type of print stories we do at newspapers. The “just the facts” journalism that feeds the daily beast rings hollow to me sometimes. Video, many times, lacks the hard facts, but plays instead to the emotion and humanity of a person or event. In this case Lorissa Green, age sixteen, died the day before in a tragic car crash. She is gone. But it’s the friends and family she left behind that matter now. Connecting to their grief, their loss was, I think, why I came to this vigil on my day off. I wasn’t being paid to tell their story. I guess I just wanted to honor the memory of a young girl whose time on this earth ending tragically in an intersection median now covered with melted remnants of candles and fading flowers.