I can’t sleep. My thoughts are haunted by eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky. I only spent just over a day in his world and it was after he had already been abducted and killed, after his alleged murderer was caught and arrested, but it was enough.
The day started out innocently enough, with me sleeping to 9 a.m. and then driving to work with my mom in tow for company. I hadn’t yet heard. The radio had yet to be turned on. Then my editor called and as the details emerged, they slammed into my consciousness and my jaw dropped. Really, child abductions don’t often end well, so reporters know that hope is just as much for the living as it is for the missing. But how Leiby’s life was ended… that was too much to comprehend.
Thank goodness reporters are hard-wired – or trained – to tackle complex stories and tragedy with a level of professional detachment. For me, that means thanking the heavens that I have my profession to wear as a mask, gaining me access to get close to the situation with both myself and my sources knowing why I’m there. My role is to document, not to mourn. I embrace that separation. And yet it doesn’t remove the reporter’s emotional core. We register the horror and grief and humanity. That’s our gift as humans and part of our job. Plus, a concentrated dose of others’ emotions does tend to cross boundaries.
In any case, I started the day in Marine Park, hightailed it over to Greenwood Heights to get reaction quotes and scope out the spot where a dumpster used to be, camped out briefly at the police station in Sunset Park, and joined the encamped press corps in Boro Park, before finally heading to the office to write everything up, review press releases and notes from a colleague, edit the website, and then go back to Boro Park to join thousands for a little boy’s funeral.
It was exhausting and I didn’t even realize it until I was a couple of hours into standing in a sea of women, climbing rubble embankments next to a train track to get a better camera shot, listening to rabbis, teachers, neighbors, strangers, mothers and fathers cry as they recited psalms in Yiddish, sent up prayers to God and gave thanks to young Leiby for being in their lives for even a brief period.
I am so grateful to my mother for helping me get from place to place.
Love knows no bounds.