3 people are dead after a 5-car pile-up on I-79. The victims include a newly married couple and their young daughter. (fictional headline) Someone in your family dies tragically. You're distraught, wrought with pain, unable to function, when the media comes calling. "Bastards! What do they want?!? Don't they have any respect for families?! For people who are grieving?! They are so heartless! All they care about is a story!"
For some, this is true. And you recognize them. You can see it in their eyes, and you see it in the way they have handled other tragedies in the past. Ignore them. But when you're up to it, find the reporter or reporters in your town who you know are empathetic and concerned about getting the story right. Call them, and share your story.
When you do this, it puts a face on the misery. Puts power to the pain. For some, a light will go off. They will realize this isn't just another death, this is a person. This is someone who meant something to someone else. For someone 3 towns away, this will become more than just another nameless, faceless tragedy, it will for them, also, become the end of a phenomenal life. I read a story in Details magazine while I was at the gym about a soldier who came from a wealthy family, yet decided he wanted to join the military. He died in Iraq fighting for something he believed in. This is just one American story out of 3,680 at the time of this writing. I don't agree with the war, but that doesn't mean I have ill will toward those fighting. A fantastic NYTimes article about the children who were babies when their fathers died at war broke my heart.
This is why I became a journalist, to tell other people's stories. And because I care. I read the biographies of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings (and this amazing article. If you don't have a Post i.d., get the free one just so you can read that.), and some of the bios of those killed on September 11th. It's the least I can do because I still have life. Often you can learn the most poignant stories from those who knew them best. In that, I draw strength from strangers.