I worked with former Marine Embassy Guard Larry Morris for the better part of a month to tell his story: He and two other Marines took down the American flag at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba on Jan. 4, 1961. On Aug. 14 he returned to Havana — to the same spot where he’d been surrounded by 1,000 Cubans at the flagpole 54 years earlier — and helped Secretary of State John Kerry reopen the building he’d been forced to evacuate.
I’d never before covered a court hearing, much less a murder trial, when I was assigned this day-turn story. It’s the tale of a drug deal gone bad; it’s an illustration of grief that endures despite a judge’s ruling.
When my editor handed me this assignment, he just wanted a quick-turn event preview that highlighted the Willy Shuman Family Fun Night. The story of Willy’s death had been told — Charlestonians knew he was a passenger in a car crashed by a drunk driver. But I found something new. Shuman gave one last tennis lesson hours before the fatal crash. I got in touch with the boy he’d coached. My editor gave me more time and space. I wrote a pseudo-sports feature for the front page.
This was one of the hardest stories — to report and write — I was assigned in West Virginia. The challenge was to respect Brandon Mooney’s grieving family … and turn a Saturday feature for my editor. I wrote a narrative on deadline. Afterwards, I got some thank-you emails from firefighters. And Mooney’s family members shared the story on their Facebook pages.
I embedded with HealthNet 5 — a medevac helicopter crew — for over a month. I discovered that some days crews don’t — can’t — fly. When they do, they’re not always going to a horrible accident. The work can be pretty mundane. It’s not as glamorous as their flight suits might suggest.