Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the long strange holiday weekend

A roller coaster is a wonderful thing.  The anxiety of the lift hill and the thrill of the drops and various gravitational forces.  Up-and-down we go on the tracks until we reach the station.  


However, the roller coaster, in our case, is only a over-simplified metaphor for a complex series of events that occur over one holiday weekend. Ask any photojournalist about the roller coaster of emotions and energy that certain days or weeks can bring us and they will tell you that there is a certain thrill to the experience as we work through the difficult times and the good times. After the twists, dips and curves of the events, there is no feeling better then pulling back into the station, wherever and whenever we find ourselves.


July 3


The first assignment was sent out earlier in the week before my days off leading to the holiday.  Staring at me was the funeral for slain toddler Jada Justice.  I've been working her abduction/murder story since it broke in June and I was saddened but not surprised to find out of her unfortunate death.  


For those not up to speed on the Jada Justice story - go here to read Jon Seidel's encompassing story on it that appeared in the Post-Tribune on June 27. 




Carrying the coffin of Jada Justice, Lamont Joyce, left, of Michigan City, and Michael Valdez of East Chicago, bother uncles of Justice lead the crowd from the memorial to the grave site during the funeral for Justice Friday afternoon at the Heritage Cemetery in Portage. About 300 people showed up to the funeral Justice whose body was recovered June 25 after being reported missing June 16.  



Clarence Justice, father of Jada Justice, prays over the lowered coffin of Jada's after the funeral for Jada Justice Friday afternoon at the Heritage Cemetery in Portage. About 300 people showed up to the funeral Justice whose body was recovered June 25 after being reported missing June 16.  



It's a hard thing to document funerals in general and especially tough for a child.  It's important to keep a level of professionalism but you would be stupid to not have it effect your psyche at some level.  I made peace with this horrendous incident and story before getting to the funeral. I knew what I was walking into and was prepared physically and mentally for the experience, but 18 months ago, I'm unsure how I would have reacted. 





As people drop flowers onto Jada Justice's lowered coffin, mother Melissa Swiontek comforts her son Julian Justice, 5, during the funeral for two-year-old Jada Justice Friday afternoon at the Heritage Cemetery in Portage. About 300 people showed up to the funeral Justice whose body was recovered June 25 after being reported missing June 16.  




One of the oddest things about this job is the 180 degree turns we have to make as we work through our day.  I filed the pictures of Jada's funeral and drove hastily to Hobart for the Pet Parade. 






Mekenzie Keilman, 4, hugs her Yorkie named "Bella" during the Hobart Kiwanis Pet Parade at Festival Park Friday afternoon in Hobart. About 30 dogs competed in categories like biggest or smallest dog and best trick.


It hit me while taking pictures of happy kids and their dogs at the lakefront park in the setting sun.  Why did a family bury their two-year-old and 10 miles and 2 hours later these parents watched as their two-year-olds played with the tails of their family mutt.  I much as i felt disconnected from the experience of Jada's burial, I also felt a certain disconnect from the happy families.  As I walked back to the car, all I could do is shake my head and mutter incoherent words about the things photojournalists see everyday. 





Finished the night with some minor league baseball which served as a nice mellow point.  


A cool breeze was coming off the lake as the air begun to get downright cool as the day faded away with my view of the field from the foul pole in right field. 



Gary RailCats catcher Anthony Esquer looks for the ball after trying to tag out Winnipeg's Josh Asanovich without it at the Steel Yard Friday night in Gary.  Winnipeg defeated Gary 10-1. 



July 4



A morning of chores and rest before two easy assignments.  A July 4th parade in Crown Point and an Naturalization Ceremony in Hammond.  Calm and happy events that were finished and filed before my deadline.  I sat in my chair in my living room as I waited for my shift to finally end at 10pm.  


Crown Point Community Foundation Inc. members roll shopping cart down Main Street to collect food during the Crown Point July 4 Parade Saturday in Crown Point. 

Kristie Tong, 20 months, stands before her mother Tran Nguyen of Hammond after Nguyen was sworn-in as a new U.S. citizen during the closing of the Naturalization Ceremony at the Harrison Park Bandshell Saturday afternoon in Hammond. 51 people became new citizens of the United States of America on Independence Day. 


A little after 10 i was just getting up for a Goose Island 312 before leaving for a colleague's house to blow off fireworks when my phone rang. I don't remember much of the call from my asst. photo editor...
but what i do remember: bridge collapse, Hidden Lake Park, GO! 

I could see the disappointment in my wife's eyes as i left. No fireworks tonight. 

I sped off into the night as fog and lingering smoke from fireworks continued to build.

Parking outside the park, i saw a masses of humanity making their way out, some wrapped in white linen after getting out of the lake.  We run to the danger with only cameras and notepads while others get away. I mean we can''t hold to a candle to the cops and firefighters who run into it, but we still do what we can. 


Firefighters and police officers from Merrillville and Ross Township search the water after a pedestrian bridge collapsed into Hidden Lake after the fireworks show Saturday at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville. 


I watched a father go from total despair to total joy after losing and finding his daughter after the bridge collapsed. 

Michael Moses of Griffith squeezes his daughter Myia, 5, in joy after hearing his other daughter Brittney, 9, was found on the other shore after a pedestrian bridge collapsed into Hidden Lake after the fireworks show Saturday at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville. Moses was holding the hands of his daughters when the bridge collapsed and became separated from Brittney. 

Brittney Moses, 9, cries after being reunited with her father Michael Moses of Griffith and sister Myia, 5, and after being reunited with Brittney after a pedestrian bridge collapsed into Hidden Lake after the fireworks show Saturday at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville. Moses was holding the hands of his daughters when the bridge collapsed and became separated from Brittney. 

Michael Moses of Griffith holds onto his daughters Myia, 5, left, and Brittney, 9, after being reunited with Brittney after a pedestrian bridge collapsed into Hidden Lake after the fireworks show Saturday at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville. Moses was holding the hands of his daughters when the bridge collapsed and became separated from Brittney. 

Firefighter Kelly Jania from Merrillville and Ross Township walks across the partially submerged bridge after completing a search for people after a pedestrian bridge collapsed into Hidden Lake after the fireworks show Saturday at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville. 



July 5



I didn't get to bed until well after 3am and was up at 845 the next day to shoot a few assignments and continue to followup on the bridge story.  



The collapsed pedestrian bridge remains in the water Sunday, July 5, 2009, after it collapsed Saturday night after a fireworks show at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville, Ind.  Over 20 people were taken to area hospitals for injuries sustained during the accident.


Merrillville Police officer Stephen Claussen takes a picture of what little remains of a ground anchor that broke Saturday night when the  pedestrian bridge collapsed into Hidden Lake during an investigation into the collapse Sunday, July 5, 2009, at Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville, Ind. 







This really was just a long, strange and emotional weekend......

I'm glad it's over, but I'm staring down a whole new weekend with a whole new set of issues.  Michael Jackson and the Gary Air Show are up next.

5 comments:

David said...

Scott:
Great photo of us with Rick Nielsen. Any chance to send me a digital copy?

David Buhler
The Gourdians-Rhythm Guitar

David said...

David@elysianbrewing.com

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