It is hard to believe the little Mexican girl from Sacramento has been a journalist for 13 years. It is even harder to believe how much my personal and professional life has grown over those years. I always knew journalism was in my blood. As a child growing up in Northern California, I was constantly seeking the truth in everything. I was also challenging the status quo.
I just couldn’t get enough news coverage, especially on big stories. I knew I was hooked when as a teen I passed on going to the mall with my friends so I could watch the Iran-Contra hearings. I was fascinated by the real life drama unfolding right before my eyes.
I knew it was historic, and badly wanted to be a witness to it. In college my doctor was helping me overcome panic attacks. He later determined the cause was probably linked to my fixation on coverage of the Iraq War. I watched the coverage every waking moment and eventually that doctor told me to turn off the television, or else! I followed his orders and the panic attacks went away. But my passion for journalism only grew stronger.
Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to cover many fascinating stories. The Chandra Levy disappearance and the Laci Peterson case are two of the bigger ones. Both were tragic, but compelling. Early in my career I learned just how powerful broadcast television can be. In February of 1998 I covered the Yosemite murders.
A mother, her teenage daughter, and a family friend were all murdered during a visit to the park. I remember one heart wrenching moment during the search for the three. I had obtained video of a cheerleading competition that included one of the dead girls. Her father watched it with me. We were both moved to tears. It hit me then, and has stayed with me ever since, my job involves so much more than reporting. My work touched people’s lives and in turn they trusted me with their deepest thoughts and emotions.
The empathy and sensitivity that came out in my work grew deeper after I faced my own personal tragedy two years later. My mother, who I considered my heart and soul, died of cancer. I never felt so empty and alone in all my life. I was surrounded by my large and loving family; yet felt no one in the world could love me like she did. Her love was unconditional. She was all I had and now she was gone. I tried as best I could, to focus on my work. I kept thinking what it would be like to face a television crew asking questions.
The same thing I had done so many times before. Their questions would no doubt be tough to answer. They would have no idea who I was, and they would ask me insensitive questions like "how do you feel." I truly believe the pain and grief that cloaked my broken spirit helped me connect with other people touched by tragedy. Throughout the years I went on to cover other high profile stories but I did it knowing that the people I talked to were very real. That they deserved respected and dignity.
I do not know what the years ahead will bring in my career, but I hope the compelling stories keep coming my way. I do know for certain, that each story I tell will contain a piece of my heart.
Gloria Gómez is a general assignment reporter for FOX13 Newsin Tampa Bay, Florida.