This is going to be an unsettling piece for some of you. It’s commentary, my opinion, my viewpoint and my own observations. You see, I am a Christ Follower, not believing in religiosity, and what the Bible calls “vain repetitions”, in other words, going through the motions. I’m about as imperfect as they can come, but ordained as a deacon, and was a Sunday School teacher who even got a thumbtack from the bulletin board … in the seat of my chair. So, with that preamble said, let’s get down to some brass tacks.
Over on Facebook, a friend talked about something being very real. Real, indeed.
In my career as a newsman, most of the time I was the ‘cop’ reporter. And much to the determent of my family, I worked on call for when bad stuff happened, and the station needed to cover it. I was pretty fair at covering breaking news like big fires, plane crashes, standoffs… the stories that might even break into regular programming for a live report (back when many radio stations did such a thing). I would take a breaking news story any day over sitting in some interminable government meeting, or some speaker at a rubber chicken luncheon. I was the guy who loved to be out in bad weather, in hurricanes, ice storms, and floods. I was the geek who pre-planned where to go and who to call when bad things happened.
Unlike law enforcement or fire rescue, my work spanned not cities or districts, but entire metro areas. That exposed me to a lot of news. I’ve seen stuff I cannot un-see, smelled odors I can’t undo in my memory, and I can say I witnessed life and death with an other-worldly tang.
It’s something that is very hard to describe. You get to thinking about it, and it’ll be a dark, wet blanket that won’t leave your bedroom when you’re trying to sleep. Memories of stuff that will make you shake your head in disbelief when you thing about it decades later.
I’ll give you an example.. one that I have used in some of my public appearances in the past.
It was a call of a person killed in Southwest Atlanta, in some apartments off Campbelton Road. When I got to the scene, I learned that a child had been stabbed to death. He was a little guy…around eight or nine years-old. He had been viciously attacked. Police say he was repeatedly stabbed, with ghastly wounds on his body. And… his body had been tossed into a garbage container…and, police say they had a suspect.
His mother, in some kind of rage had chased the boy through the house, cutting him with a large knife. In addition to the child’s body, she had thrown some other things into the Dumpster. The head of the homicide squad at the time was a seasoned supervisor. He had been decorated by the department for his valor in a gun battle with an armed robber. And, that afternoon, he was as grim in countenance as I’ve ever seen anybody.
There was the usual meeting with reporters to explain as much as they could about what had happened, and that the mother was the only suspect. I had a pretty good relationship with officers, and they somehow let me look into the dumpster where the body was tossed.
It looked like a can of red paint..deep red paint had been dropped into the receptacle. You could easily tell what the mother had tossed in along with her dead son. All of it was bloodied, smeared with the life of that child. His heroes had apparently been ripped from the wall, or at least from his room. There was a picture of Stevie Wonder, another of Martin Luther King Junior, and one more framed image...
That of Jesus Christ. It was one of those iconic images that has lasted through the ages. It was that image of Christ as he is looking toward the sky, his somber, illuminated face.
And one more thing. That picture of Christ had a bloody hand smear on His face. It wasn’t the kind of vulgarity of some murders. The body had been removed. They were just things thrown out in some kind of rage against a kid that couldn’t possibly have earned a sentence of death…especially death at the hands of his own mother. It wasn’t the picture that creeped me out.. it was the imagination of how the child had lived the last moments of his life.
It wasn’t a crime of passion like the one I saw years before in a house in Concord, now Farragut. A man had been shot several times and died where he fell inside a house, because of some kind of dispute. It was like a double killing in West Knox County, where a husband and father killed his wife and daughter, loaded their bodies down and tossed them into Fort Loudon Lake… for strangers to see those sights, and experience those odors.
I don’t know whether I even considered the existence of palpable evil on this planet until I started covering police and fire stories.
The anguish of a mother and father whose daughter went missing. I sat in their living room and interviewed them, wishing I could say something of hope or encouragement… but I knew the odds that they would ever see her again were not good. Instead of a. half-lie, I thanked them for their time, and did the best I could to tell their story.
The ugly smear of red on a storm door, where a crazed husband nearly bisected his wife during some kind of frenzy. There were things like that ..I could not photograph, or even describe in the PG world I tried to maintain in my reporting.
I was on the scene of many of the Atlanta Child Murders, and talked to mothers of some of the victims. Mothers who, to this day, have no peace about what really happened to their child, or why. One young woman disappeared from the “nice” section of town…kidnapped and murdered with her body dumped in woods near a remote street often heaped with trash. She was discarded there, too.
Who does this stuff? A mother who barricades the door of her apartment bedroom, throws gasoline around the rom and immolates herself and her children. A woman who is stabbed so severely that her body was pinned to the floor. A man who dispassionately describes how he trussed up, and butchered his victim because he was too heavy to carry to the trash in one piece. All of those are real stories from my time both on the street, and at the news desk anchoring live events.
You write these stories and you shake your head. And if there was any doubt of the existence of an evil force in this world… it was chased away when I heard myself reading the stories out loud.
There are those of us who are not ashamed to tell of the power of prayer, or a belief in something beyond ourselves. We might be afraid that we would be thought of as too orthodox, old fashioned, or maybe just.dead.wrong. I have no doubt experienced the power of Faith in many people…. many people who have embodied what it means to believe.
I’ve seen good, and I know It exists.
And… I have seen evil. It is powerful. Innocents die. Lives are ruined. Families are left in perpetual mourning, and as for one reporter… it sometimes creeps back into my dreams to show me things I cannot un-see.