Filed under: noteworthy

Mr. Fahrenheit

I’ve watched this thing like a hundred and fifty times in the past couple of days, and it makes me laugh every time. Check out my sisters singing and dancing to a hilarious, exuberant, mostly off-key version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” The movie’s about a minute long and I think you need Flash 8 to play it.


Get this video and more at MySpace.com

9 Comments April 18, 2006

Media, Ethics, Heroin

**Update 11/17/06: Please go to this post for my thoughts on Jamey Singleton’s release from WSLS.**

Okay, I’m going to summarize this Marc Lamarre business as best I can, in list format, to give you background for the “ethics” part of today’s post.

  1. In December, Marc Lamarre and another weatherman disappeared from local newscasts for a while with no explanation whatsoever from the station. Like many, I heard rumors that they’d been sent to rehab for drug problems.
  2. The week before last, Marc again disappeared from the news. Honestly, I didn’t even notice he was gone at first.
  3. Early last week, my site stats spiked with “Marc Lamarre” search engine hits. I became curious and did a news search of my own, which confirmed that he’d been released from WSLS. I figured his alleged drug problems might have something to do with it, mentioned it to a few people, and went about my day. I specifically didn’t write about it because I didn’t want to be all up in here committing libel, and because I figured it’d only be of interest to local readers.
  4. About the same time that I started getting odd comments and emails speculating that he’d died, WSLS ran a story basically saying that he wasn’t dead and that’s all they were allowed to say on the subject. The next morning, the local CBS affiliate broke the heroin overdose story, and it made the paper and I wrote my post.

Oh, and my site hits totally EXPLODED over the weekend. It’s bizarre.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. WDBJ broke the story because a federal complaint was filed against the guy who was allegedly involved in supplying the heroin that led to Lamarre’s near-fatal overdose. Incidentally, the word is that he was found by rescuers not breathing and without a pulse, so there’s where the “dead of an overdose” stuff came from. But anyway – that federal complaint is public record, and once the local media got their hands on it, the cat was out of the bag.

WSLS has a newscast at 5:00, 5:30, and 6:00 on weeknights, which is probably a bit excessive but I’m a news junkie and typically watch all three. On Friday when I got home, the news was all about Lamarre’s situation. They had gotten a statement from him (and permission to report on him), they interviewed his sister, they did a bunch of stuff about the perils of heroin and the heroin trade in southwest Virginia. Each of the three newscasts had a slightly different focus, showing different parts of the interviews, highlighting different aspects of the federal investigation, and so on.

One thing that aired in all three newscasts was a statement from the station’s general manager, explaining that as an employer, they were not legally allowed to report on any aspect of Lamarre’s health without his permission. And, okay, I can agree with that. As a manager with some hiring and firing power, I’m pretty well-versed in the regulations, and as a human being, I’m sensitive to what kind of information you should share about your coworkers.

But the part of the GM’s statement I have an issue with is this:

Some other media outlets have reported rumor, innuendo, and gossip.

We won’t do that.

You have my personal promise that we’ll report the facts on this and every story, just as soon as we can both legally and ethically.

I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on that.

As many of you know, my sister’s accident received an INSANE amount of news coverage, and I’d say over half of it – particularly from WSLS – was made up of wrong information, rumor, innuendo, and gossip, and/or information obtained unethically. Within an hour of the car crash, local news outlets including WSLS reported varying (usually incorrect) bits of information about the people involved, the number of fatalities, the causes – you name it. In fact, a number of early news reports said that Ginny’s car had carried two to three female passengers, and many of our friends and family rushed to the hospital thinking all four of us had been involved. Luckily, the news reports were so inconsistent that people who knew us began to call us directly to figure out what exactly had happened.

Ginny was in surgery for most of the night after the crash – six hours or more, if I remember correctly. WSLS reported the outcome of her surgery and her condition on the news before the surgeons had spoken to my parents. Reporters and crazy people were calling the hospital regularly pretending to be members of our family in order to get news about Ginny.

WSLS could have waited a few hours to get official reports about the crash, and would have been on ethical high ground in doing so. But they didn’t – of course they didn’t – because their chief concern was to break the story before the other stations did. That’s how journalism tends to work. They can report the story first and straighten out the facts later.

I’m really very sorry about what Marc Lamarre has gone through and about the road he’ll have ahead. He has some big problems and it must be terrible to have to go through any part of them so publicly.

I’m also sympathetic to the dilemma those at WSLS must have faced as employers in this situation. But I think it’s pretty damn rich for them to claim MORAL high ground here. If it had been Leo Hirsbrunner (of WDBJ) flatlined in a bathtub full of cold water in a ghetto duplex somewhere, I’m thinking WSLS would have been all over that story.

Addendum: The local newspaper has good coverage of the ethics and such here.

26 Comments February 13, 2006

Come Downstairs and Say Hello

Good lord, I am in a cranky mood today, and I really have no idea why. I had a great workout yesterday, longer and a little more intense than usual, and slept like a rock last night as a result, and my hair looks fine, and I don’t feel especially fat or gross today, and I have a cool shirt on, and the weather isn’t terribly offensive, and no one’s really done anything specific to annoy me, but I’m still really grouchy. And it’s not, like, actively grouchy, to where I want to be pissy and mean to people. It’s more along the lines of eyeroll-y grouchy, where I find everything annoying, but quietly and secretly, and I want everyone to leave me alone and I want to go home and get back in bed.

I was even planning to write an uplifting and inspirational post today about this website I found that moved me, but I’m way too grumblegrumbly to even do that. Grouch grouch grouchy, even. So you’ll have to wait for another time to read that one, or maybe never, since I’m forever making promises about future posts that I never follow through on.

Oooh! I know what would be fun today. How about if every one of you reading leaves me a comment to tell me you’re here? I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and a quick Google search tells me that a few people have gone and tried to make it an official day (DeLurking Day, or whatever), but whatever, I tend to miss official days, and I missed all of these.

I just used “whatever” twice in a sentence. That’s pretty bad. But since I’m writing more stream-of-consciously than usual (not a word, probably!), I’m going to leave it.

Anyway. I know I have a fair number of readers, because I track my stats rather obsessively, and once in a while I hear from someone who’s like, “Hey, I’ve been reading for x months but never felt comfortable or never got around to saying hello before now,” and you guys, if I’ve never said it before, I love so much that you find something in this that makes you come back. It’s one of the most flattering and affirming things ever, and I’ve always hoped that everyone reading would comment once in a while, but I understand that there are lots of reasons why you don’t.

So, here’s a chance. If you’re reading, whether you’ve commented before or not, I’d love it if you took a moment to leave a quick comment saying hi. And you can tell me one thing about yourself, anything you want, or not. My comments are set up in such a way that you don’t even have to leave any contact information if you’d prefer not to – just say hello. It would make my day.

And I hope you have a good day, too.

28 Comments May 4, 2005

In One Year

A year ago today, at about 7:45 in the evening, our lives changed forever.

I find it hard to articulate the ways in which I have changed since that night. I have been trying in earnest to write this post for about ten days; I have been planning it in my head for about ten months.

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be in the thick of things. If something happened, something went wrong, I wanted to know everything, and I wanted to help, and I wanted some responsibility. I think it’s the oldest child in me. When we got the call last year that Ginny had been in an accident, my parents rushed out the door, and I stayed home to get my other sisters ready, and to man the phone. For the first time in my life, I had what I had always wanted – a serious responsibility in crisis – and as my parents began calling in with updates, I began to wish with all my heart that I could be a child again, too young to be told what I was hearing.

They told me that teenagers had been killed – likely classmates or friends of Sammi and Jamie – and then, when they knew, they told me that one of those teenagers was Janae Mills, someone we’d known forever, someone that my sisters had grown up with. They knew from hearing my end of the conversation that something was up, and they pointedly asked me if someone they knew had been involved. My parents had asked me not to tell them yet, and I had to lie. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And in fulfilling that simple request, I really hit adulthood hard. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to know what I knew. I didn’t want to keep that sudden crushing grief to myself; I wanted to tell others, to ease my own pain by sharing it. But at that time, and for a long time afterward, my feelings were the last thing I could worry about.

I am grateful for so much we received during that time – the meals from our friends and my coworkers, the visits from friends we hadn’t seen in years, the thirty-some messages on our answering machine. I will tell you this for sure – if you ever find that someone you know has been involved in a tragedy, and you’re wondering if you should call, DO IT. We would come home at night and listen to the messages on our machine and feel just a little better about things. I am thankful for and bewildered by the love from the other families, who in their grief and pain and shock took time to call or stop by and see how WE were doing. I am thankful for the family of the woman who’d had a stroke, who camped out in the waiting room with us and talked and joked with us and shared their doughnuts with me very early in the morning when I took the overnight shift. I am thankful for most of the hospital staff, who let us totally ignore their rules and sleep in a chair in Ginny’s ICU chamber when she needed us.

There was exactly one time when I broke down in the ICU waiting room, and it was of course the one time I was in there by myself. I am thankful for the woman in the red pantsuit, whose name I don’t know, who left her family and came over to me and wrapped me in a hug when I was crying, and told me some things about Jesus that are too personal to share. I am most definitely not a religious woman, even now, but she comforted me greatly when I really needed it, and I will never forget her kindness.

By some appearances, it might not seem like we’ve changed at all. We still all live at home. We still have the same jobs. We still goof around with each other like we always have; we argue as much as we ever have. But my family is most certainly closer now. We have been through something that most people could never imagine.

There are two ways you can go to get to town when you leave our house. If you turn left out of the neighborhood, you’ll pass the scene of the accident, where the families of the victims have maintained a little memorial garden since that night. Going that route, we always slow down and remember. Ginny doesn’t usually come home from work that way anymore.

I turn right most days, because that’s how I have to go to get to my office. But I think about the accident every day, usually in the car.

We are so fortunate that Ginny survived. It’s something else we think about every day. She’s come a long way in one year, as we all have. She is walking now, and working, and driving again, and in the fall she will be returning to college to pursue her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. She’s going to be really good at that.

In the essay she wrote for her application for readmission to JMU, she said that she felt a responsibility to go back, get her degree, and follow this dream, and that it was something she was doing not only for herself, but for Janae, Michael, and Ginni, who will not have that opportunity.

Tonight, we will be going out to dinner together to celebrate Ginny’s life, and I know the other families will be in our thoughts today more than ever.

Last year, during the week when Ginny was in intensive care, I mentioned to my family that I had written about the accident, and I told them about the outpouring of love and support we were receiving not just through my site, but from websites and people around the world. They were astonished, as I was, and eventually got around to checking it out for themselves. Your thoughts, prayers, and words meant so much to us during that horrible time, and we are so thankful, even now, for your kindness.

5 Comments March 1, 2005

Uncomfortably Numb

My sister Ginny got a new Jeep Cherokee today. New to her, anyway. She had it delivered to her at work so she could drive it home. I hadn’t seen it yet, but I heard it was sweet.

She was less than five minutes from our house when a car full of five high school students lost control and hit her head-on going 50-60 miles per hour. She never saw it coming.

She was conscious and alert enough to give someone our home phone number. He called and said she was pinned in the Jeep and my parents flew out the door. She was airlifted to the hospital and I got on the phone and called all the necessary people and then we met everyone there.

Rescue workers said there were “bodies all over the road.” They had to cut the front end and the roof off of the Jeep to get Ginny out. Three of the kids from the other car were killed, including Janae, the first person that Sammi ever made friends with when we moved here almost twelve years ago. My sisters know or know of everyone involved. One of the girls who survived is on their volleyball team, but her outlook is sketchy right now. We know all the families, and my parents took Janae’s brother home after the accident, and the hospital has been an absolute circus of clergy and worried parents and kids who heard what happened on the news and rushed down. I can’t even be angry with the kids – we know them so well.

As for Ginny, she’s in surgery now. She has two broken femurs, a compound fracture in one of her tibias, and possibly a broken pelvis. They’re still waiting for results of a lot of the tests they ran. They’re putting pins in her legs. We got to visit her briefly before they took her to surgery and she said that unfortunately she remembers everything that happened. She’s so upset that the Jeep got totaled when she just got it today, but honestly, it saved her life. Her truck doesn’t have air bags and is very light and if she’d been in it, she almost certainly would have died. We’re so lucky that she got the Jeep today.

I was awesome until about an hour ago. I had adrenaline pumping and I made all the calls, made sure my sisters were dressed and ready, and did everything I had to do and completely held it together. But we needed to get Sammi and Jay home, and so my dad drove us back so I could stay with the girls here and he went back to be with Mom and Ginny and in the car on the way home I just completely lost it. And right now I feel like it’s all I can do to stand up and walk around.

I don’t really know what the next few days/weeks/months are going to be like, but please keep us in your thoughts/prayers/drinking anthems/whatever for a while. My sisters should not have to deal with this at this age. No one should have to deal with this at any age.

I’ve never been to a funeral before, but we’ll be going to at least one in the coming days. I’m so torn and have this weird survivor’s guilt – we are devastated about the other kids but so lucky that my sister made it.

Update: I just saw the wreck on the news, and holy shit. It’s a wonder anyone survived at all. I need to try to get some sleep.

36 Comments March 1, 2004

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