It's easy to get jaded working in television. After about three years it feels like you have seen all the stories, and nothing surprises you. You can usually narrow down the outcome of any event to three possibles, and bet on the one it will most likely be. There is a lot of cynicism, and a lot of gallows humor. A lot of the time that's enough to get through the day, and not feel like the job is sucking the life out of us. Then there are the times we get punched in the gut, and there is no way to leave work at the office.
One week a go today a couple reported their four year old son was missing. They said it was the fifth time he had wandered away from their apartment, but that they had always found him close by in the past. At first, we assumed the kid that fallen asleep somewhere, and that when morning came he would be found. I was actually kind of annoyed that another "irresponsible parent" story was taking up airtime. By noon though, we knew something wasn't right. I had a feeling the parents were a bit worse than "irresponsible."
Oh, how I wish I hadn't been right.
The mother and step father of 4-year old Ethan Stacy murdered him. Not only that though, they abused him for days beforehand, and then after his death desecrated his body and buried him in the canyon. Every day last week I thought the worst of the story was over. Every day I was wrong. By the time Thursday rolled around I was ready to scream "ENOUGH! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANY MORE!" Of course, that's like a doctor saying they are sick of blood, or BP saying they are sick of environmental destruction.
I think I cried more last week than I have in a long time. I was actually dehydrated. And I wasn't alone. Friday morning I went into the office, feeling like I was returning to take one more beating after a week of having the shit kicked out of me. I sat at my desk, started my computer, and looked up to say hello to my co-workers.
My feelings were reflected in every face I saw.
Not one of us was unaffected. Not one of us didn't feel like our hearts had been taken out, stomped on, and put back in. Not one of us wanted to still be reporting on Ethan's story, because not one of us wanted to believe that such a horrible thing could happen.
I struggled all weekend over why we reported the Ethan story at all, and why we went into such detail. After all, it's very easy to write it off as "disaster porn." However, I think it's important for people to know about Ethan. They need to be reminded that monsters really do exist, and that everyone, not just parents, need to be vigilant and protect children from them. Being polite, and turning a blind eye could cost a child his or her life.
At least I hope that's the answer, because it's the only way I can sleep at night. Well, sleep at night and still have a functioning heart.