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The hardest week


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Photo by Nick Mercer/The Compass

I’ve done any number of them before for this paper and others.

They generally follow the same formula. Mix a humourous anecdote in with an emotional telling of what the subject meant to their family.

This one was going to be similar.

Now, telling someone’s story isn’t a job I take lightly. At any time, you’re catching a person on the best or worst day of their life.

It’s a heavy responsibility having to let strangers know how this person is feeling or how they affected the lives of those around them.

But, it’s my job and I take great pride in doing it.

This week offered something a bit different. It offered a five-year-old girl from Carbonear pulled from a burning home on Hayden Heights April 24.

Tragic by itself, but even more so when you consider the circumstances around it. A girl allegedly abandoned by a man who she called dad, but might not have deserved the title.

It’s a scenario that rips at you. You struggle with it; grappling with the gamut of emotions it pulls out of you.

It makes you angry. It makes you sad and it makes you realize that life is precious and short.

You want to punch a wall in frustration or scream at the heavens that it isn’t fair.

Parents are supposed to be there for you, you know?

It makes covering a story like this difficult. Imagining what her mother and extended family is going through only pulls you in deeper.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget Quinn Lorna-Kay Butt. The vision of a carefree five-year-old dancing through a forest is never going to go away. I know that.

On a fresh snowfall, I’ll remember her smile and her red sweater. I’ll remember the 3,000 people who showed up to St. Francis soccer field in Harbour Grace and the heartbreaking level of support shown around the world.

Did you know Disney World paid tribute to Quinn?

That just cuts at you. Thinking about it brings tears to your eyes. Writing about was even worse.

There were plenty of times where I stopped mid-sentence; the weight of the situation overwhelming me.

Covering this story has been a challenge. We’re encouraged to show empathy in our work. We’re encouraged to put ourselves in the mindset of our subjects.

Generally, I try not to because I don’t want to write from a place of emotion. I find it can cloud what I’m trying to say in my writing.

You couldn’t here and I struggled with it.

It’s a soul-searing story. Stuff like this changes you.

Man, what a week.

 

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

 

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