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Not so merry Christmas

The last 24 hours have been devastating, to say the least. The last week has been almost too much to bear. The longer I work in this business the more understanding I am becoming of people's ways of dealing with all the depressing news we report.

Mr. Vander Haag

As the days have gone by since we first reported about the man who froze to death in his wheelchair, we've learned a few things about him. He was quite the looker in his younger days (judging from the picture given to us to use in our reports); he was also, as you might imagine, an amicable personality, near as I could tell. His family just can't understand why in the world the people working security at the apartment building where he lived didn't work harder to look for him. Why did they give up so easily?

I do not totally blame the people at the apartments. Remember, we're talking about human beings here -- not angels, not saints, just regular, ordinary, everyday people. Fred Rogers (better known as "Mister Rogers") would have said this about the security people at the Herkimer Apartments: "I wonder what kind of day they were having?"

Point being, there's two sides to every coin; two sides to every story. I'm quite sure the people working at the apartment building didn't get up that morning and say to themselves, "This seems like a great day to really screw some people over and get somebody killed!" I don't mean to play down the tragedy Mr. Vander Haag suffered. I just don't think it's right to portray the Herkimer apartments people as being villainous. This was a horribly unfortunate, avoidable tragedy; I think everybody agrees on that. It is a lesson for every single one of us who was touched by it.

You can read more about this story here while the link remains active: http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2725178&nav=0RcdUVP7

Officer shot

Last night just before 11pm, a Grand Rapids police officer was shot in the arm and leg by a man who as of this writing is still on the loose. In fact, Police Chief Harry Dolan specifically said, "We consider this man to be armed and extremely dangerous."

This event, and the events surrounding it, caused us to have to work late last night -- and by late I mean, I didn't get home until 5am. When somebody is shot it's unfortunate; when somebody dies by gunfire, it's a tragedy. When a police officer gets shot, it's a VERY BIG DEAL -- to the police department, to us in the media, and to anyone who cares.

By the way, the police officer is in the hospital in stable condition at this time. Go to this link for more details: http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2727484&nav=0RcdUUml

For more updated information on many stories happening in West Michigan, go to this link:
http://www.woodtv.com/

I won't even go into how that chain of events cut into my day today, which is inconsequential at most, and ultimately worked out just fine in the end anyway, thanks to the fact that there's a D&W in the neighborhood. Nor can I exacerbate the details of this story in any way, because I was so busy after I returned to work this afternoon, so busy with switching the shows, I had absolutely no time to absorb any content we reported on. I could not tell you what our weather forecast will be for the next two hours, let alone the next 24-48.

Reggie Espolon

Yesterday morning around 10am, a young man lost his battle with cancer. This particular young man was quite a beloved member of the WOOD TV-8/WOTV family. He worked as a photog up until about 5 months ago, when he was diagnosed with the cancer (I don't remember what of). He made a huge impact on his co-workers here. I never met him -- at least, not that I remember, but I certainly got to know after the emails started going out about helping him and his family through this difficult time.

When one of our editors told me this news, I reacted by saying, how awful, but... at least now his pain and suffering are over with, right? To which she gently replied, "Yes, but what a horrible thing for his family to endure right now." And then it dawned on me -- Christmas. And right away I was reminded -- for the second time this week -- about what happened with my dad three years ago, when he got sick right before Christmas. He didn't die until the following March, but I remember how difficult that particular Christmas was. I had just been discussing that Christmas with my mom the night before Nancy gave me the news about Reggie. He was only 34, too, and leaves behind a wife and 4-year-old.

And now I understand why people hate the holidays so much.

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