Once when I was investigating a politician in Laredo, Texas my wife and I had to spend the night at the county clerk’s home after someone shot up our house.
I never found out if the two activities were related, or whether I was the victim of a random drive-by shooting.
In San Antonio while spending the night in a low-income housing project someone shot at his uncle just outside the window of the house I was staying in – apparently upset his uncle had taken the last beer out of a six pack. The bloody knee-cap on the ground was a mute witness to the shooting.
People threatened to shoot me once while covering a miner’s strike in Kentucky. In Texas, while covering gang violence some of the gang members waved loaded guns at me. Another time shots rang out in my general vicinity and I took cover.
When I was at America’s Most Wanted we all lived with a general threat against our life, and I had a couple of convicted killers specifically threaten me.
While in the Persian Gulf area during the first Gulf War I was shot at several times, though I doubt any of it was personal.
I say all of this without pride. It’s part of the job sometimes. We all accept it.
But what happened to a reporter and a photographer in Virginia this week is something that’s very hard to understand and accept.
Apparently – and as I write this information is still being gathered – a disgruntled former employee took his own first-person video of shooting a young woman reporter and her young male photographer.
It occurred on live-television.
The immediate knee-jerk reactions from the peanut gallery mentioned race since the disgruntled employee was black and his victims white.
Others discussed mental illness and still others opined that we have far too many shootings in this country and insufficient gun laws.
I am still numb.
I have seen people killed. I have seen the aftermath. I have been threatened, jailed, fired, physically threatened and struck in the attempts to do my job.
People have followed me home, written me nasty letters, and once a company I investigated produced a 5-minute video denouncing my investigative report while defending their pesticide which the federal government banned because it allegedly caused chemical lupus.
I’ve been called a “flaming” liberal and accused of being a “pinko faggot” and I’ve had liberals call me a “Tea Bagger.”
Once I had a rich rancher tell me – as he ate powdered coffee creamer with a spoon from a big, round shaker – there were places on his ranch no one but the pigs would ever find me.
I still am unsure of what he meant though he assured me through a snarl he wasn’t talking about his daughters – when I asked him.
Yes, I have pushed boundaries.
Yes, I have covered my fair share of hate, death and destruction – details at 11.
Then, to think your life will end while doing a live-shot on a morning show with a member of the chamber of commerce on a story that ultimately means little or nothing is not only hard to swallow but a scathing indictment of the miserable culture of the United States.
Not a day seems to go by without someone gunning someone down for the thinnest of reasons.
Terror is our daily distraction and lack of reason seems to be our daily companion.
People will rationalize what has happened and continue the same arguments and go over the same old ground, grinding logic into the dust and ignoring the fundamental truth we all must face: attitudes must change.
You want stricter gun laws? Fine. You want fewer? Fine.
Either will work as long as people change.
When our culture no longer accepts violence as an alternative and when we embrace logic and compassion instead of bitterness and retribution then it won’t much matter what the law says.
Ultimately we are all responsible for our own lives.
Each day we make ourselves victims. Due to mental illness, anger, criminal behavior, passion and evil intent we can with the aid of a piece of lead and metal make others suffer too.
As Gandhi said – an eye for an eye makes the world blind.
Welcome to a dark world.