There are always feelings of dread and ambivalence whenever I approach the home of a fallen soldier. I had to do it Friday morning after Fox Chicago got word that a suburban soldier was among those killed in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas.
Soon after arriving at the family’s Bolingbrook home, I knocked on the door lightly with cameraman Ed Flynn ready to roll. A tired-looking man answered and said, “Please, we’ve been up all night. Maybe we’ll talk later but my parents are finally getting some rest.”
NBC5 reporter Phil Rogers agrees, “It’s the worst thing we do.” But he stresses it’s something journalists will always do. “Often, we have people who want their story told. We have to ring their bell.”
“Yeah, worst part” adds Jason Knowles, a reporter for ABC7 Chicago. ”And we have to do it so often. But we always respect the family.”
Reporter Robert Sanchez of the Daily Herald says, “We don’t take pleasure in it. Unless we ask, we won’t know.” On occasion, he’ll hear from families days after his coverage of a fallen hero. ”I’ve had people say thank you because now other people know how great they were.”
Throughout the day, we gradually learned more about 21-year-old Michael Pearson. The 2006 Bolingbrook High School graduate joined the army to serve his country and see the world. He was an amazing guy – a talented guitar player and playful uncle to young nieces and nephews.
Before his grief-stricken parents eventually addressed the media camped outside their home, a family friend wiped away tears as she told us, “Mikey was one of a kind. You couldn’t ask for a better son, brother, neighbor or friend. The family lost their gem.”