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Taking photos of tragic events is not something I enjoy nor is it something I take lightly.
At my first full-time newspaper job, one of the first accidents I covered involved a car that ran off the side of the road and flipped over. The parents, who were wearing seat belts, survived. The children, who were not belted, were thrown from the vehicle and killed.
When I got back to the office, my boss could tell I was shaken up. We talked about why we cover these kinds of incidents. Unfortunately, tragedy is part of life. We cover accidents in hopes that people will learn something that may prevent similar incidents and also because the people involved are part of our community. What happens to them affects many other people as well.
I also remember a father I met when I worked in Iowa. He spoke to high school students about how his daughter, her friend and two other girls were killed in a head-on collision. During his talk, he showed photos (school portraits) of the people involved. He explained a variety of the mistakes people made both behind the wheel and inside those vehicles on that fateful day. Speeding, driving with too little sleep, driving hungover (and possibly still intoxicated), and not wearing seat belts were among the many factors that contributed to the severity of the accident.
After the talk, he took the students outside and showed them the vehicles. He’d purchased them and brought them with him wherever he spoke because he was convinced that seeing the end result of the accident would drive his message home more than anything he said.
Even so, I still have trouble taking pictures at accident scenes, but I also remember something I learned in a seminar from a former Iowa Photographer of the Year. He explained that when we cover accidents were aren’t just covering the people involved, we are also covering the people who respond to those accidents -- the rescue squad, the paramedics, police and firefighters. What they deal with isn’t pleasant to see, but it does show how they serve our community.
Many times, the victims have already been moved from the vehicles or are already being transported for treatment by the time I arrive at an accident scene. That wasn’t the case Sunday evening.
Instead, I witnessed more emergency workers than I could keep track of doing everything they could to save a human being trapped inside a car. I later learned that person was Jared Wheatley, a local high school student. He is recovering at University Hospital in Louisville, and I am convinced he survived because of the efforts of those emergency workers.
I tried to capture those efforts on camera, but honestly, the photo does not do justice to the coordinated, combined efforts of the emergency personnel.
I’m very aware that I’m entering a sensitive situation whenever I go to a fire or an accident. I know that images of an accident will be upsetting to some people. I’ve received plenty of phone calls and emails over the years telling me just that.
But my hope always remains the same - that maybe, just maybe, it will be the last tragedy that I have to cover.
Another family matter
Kathy (Hoover) Voxland contacted the newspaper last week looking for descendants of Joseph Edmondson.
Edmondson married Elizabeth Vaughn on Dec. 15, 1839, and they had six children: Isabelle Hoover of Danville, Fetna A. (Hoover) Chase of Indiana and Minnesota, Ella Langford, Nathan Edmondson and James Edmondson of Anderson County, and John Edmondson of Indiana.
Voxland, of Annandale, Va., will be attending a blessing of Joseph Edmondson’s grave at the Old Liberty Cemetery, near Bradfordsville, at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. She has invited anyone with pictures or information about the family to contact her at (703) 354-5053.