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Note: I have posted some more pictures from New Orleans that were taken this week when we were there. Please click the link in the photo box to check out my photo essay.
I am very curious, so my job of asking questions is usually a pretty easy one. I study for several hours before the show, but don't "program" questions. I simply introduce the segment and guests and ask the first question that comes to mind on the topic based on my study and curiosity. Ordinarily, my job is not "heavy lifting."
However, Thursday night was different. I must have spent an hour and a half — off and on — trying to think of how to start the interview with Taylor Behl's (search) mother. Earlier in the day it had been confirmed that the body found on Wednesday in a shallow grave was that of her only child — 17-year-old Taylor. Each question that I came up with sounded horrible. How are you? That is a horrible question for the mother of a dead child.
I had told Taylor's mother several times privately before the interview (and in a conversation the night before when a body had been found, but an unconfirmed identity) how terrible I felt about the news, so to say at the start of the segment that I was sorry about the tragedy sounded staged and I am sure would have been phony to her. She and I had been through that already. I asked advice from my staff. We tried to come up with the "right" thing to say to the mother of a dead child. We have grown fond of Janet Pelasara (search) and we wanted to try to make her feel better — even if the gesture is an impossible one and I think it is. If you watched last night and thought my first question to her seemed clumsy, it was not because I did not care. It is because there is nothing you can say to the parent of a dead child that seems right. At best, you try and communicate that you care.
I admire Janet, as I do all the family members who join us to discuss missing or dead family members. They do so because they have a mission: to either find the missing member or to get justice. Some even feel a duty to appear, since they have the drawn the public into their tragedy and feel the public should hear from them when it becomes known what has happened. I wish you could hear the conversations I have with the family before the segment starts because you see and hear a very human side of the person facing the tragedy — when the cameras turn on, you see the brave face I think, in part, to spare you. I always wonder if I could possibly muster the strength and courage that these family members do.
Taylor is not or was not the only missing teenager in Richmond, Virginia in September. Here is an Associated Press article of a story we have been monitoring closely and hoping to cover:
Police say missing teen may be with man she met on Internet
Police are looking for a 57-year-old man they believe may be involved in the disappearance of a teenager missing for more than a week.
Monica Sharp (search) hasn't been seen since Sept. 18, when she left her home to take her dog for a walk. The dog returned — 17-year-old Sharp did not.
Police believe Sharp is in the company of Jeffery Nichols, of Belleville, Ill., whom she apparently met on the Internet. He is driving a green, four-door, 1999 Oldsmobile Alero with an Illinois tag: 6219015.
A preliminary investigation indicates Sharp went willingly with Nichols, police spokeswoman Kirsten Nelson said Monday.
There have been no leads as to Nichols' whereabouts, Nelson said.
Now for some of your e-mails:
E-mail No. 1
I would love to hear your take on the woman asked to leave a Southwest flight after refusing to turn her anti-Bush T-shirt inside out. Are we all so sensitive that we can't agree that we are going to disagree every now and then? The intolerance for anything other then the status quo scares me more than I can say. What happened to "I may not like what you say but I will defend your right to say it?" As an American, in a free society, I sometime hear views that make my blood boil. I thought that is what it is all about, I hear you, your hear me and we agree that we are free to say what we feel. Clothes police are in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. I think they are called Taliban. Good taste in clothes cannot be legislated. I think we would agree that if it ever comes to that we have become what we are fighting against.
ANSWER: I was not aware of this incident on Southwest Airlines. Apparently April — see E-mail No. 2 below — knows about this.
E-mail No. 2
I applaud Southwest Airlines for taking action against the simple-minded woman who wore such an appalling costume. Obviously, this type of behavior was the only way she could get attention... pathetic. I don't appreciate the humor (or lack of it), and it's clear many other passengers felt the same. Lawsuit indeed!
E-mail No. 3
Has anyone established a trust fund for the benefit of Valerie Lozada? (search) If so, please advise as I would like to donate to it.
Dean A. Roome
ANSWER: Dean — your note is very nice... it is fun to open it and read such an offer of kindness. I don't know the answer but if anyone reads this blog does know the answer, please send it to me so that I can post it for Dean and others who want to contribute. And for those of you who do not know who Valerie is, she is the 4-year-old girl who was abandoned in New York City last week at about 1 a.m. by the boyfriend of her mother. The boyfriend is now in jail — charged with murdering little Valerie's mother. Valerie has charmed us all. Every time someone plays the tape of Valerie on the TV, I stop and watch. I bet everyone else does, too.
E-mail No. 4
That little baby girl, Valerie Lozada, is the cutest thing I've ever seen! I wish she could be given to Janet Pelasara, Taylor's mom, to raise. Each is grieving the cruel loss of a mother and a daughter... I hope they both heal soon and find happiness,
E-mail No. 5
Greta has to be the most classless person doing TV talk shows! She asks Taylor Behl's mother, "I bet you would like to kill him" — whatever the suspect's name is. She has made many stupid remarks and comments in the time I have watched her show, but this one is the one that broke the camel's back, as they say, I had to write. What's on CNN?
ANSWER: We live in a civilized city where the judicial process handles crime and does so dispassionately. Of course the judicial process should handle crime and we should not take it into our own hands. However, just because we allow the judicial system to handle crime, does not prevent a parent from having so much grief that he or she wants to throttle someone who kills his or her child. To act on that desire would be a crime — to feel that anger is not. I know how I would feel today if I were a parent of a child murdered and had just learned it. In my grief I would want revenge. Over time I hope I would deal with my anger, not want revenge but always want justice. But on that first day....
As a final note, even if I could deal with my revenge and I hope I could, the grief of a dead child would last forever.
E-mail No. 6
Please allow me to extend, through you, my deepest sympathy to Taylor's mother and family. You have been so gentle with Taylor's mother as you were with Natalee's mother. Thank you for your kindness to them.
E-mail No. 7
So heartbroken about this story, especially for that brave mother of hers... Didn't she also lose her brother and nephew due to horrible circumstances, as I recall from the news? Please add me to the list of people offering condolences to the family.
ANSWER: I don't know the details, but I do know that the family has endured other tragedy.
E-mail No. 8
My heart hurts tonight for the family of Taylor Behl. Losing a child is like having someone steal a piece of your heart and leave a gaping, painful hole that will never be filled. My own son [Kerry] was murdered by a sexual predator five years ago. He was a 20-year-old sophomore student at Texas A&M who began an Internet relationship with a girl who turned out to be a 32-year-old man pretending to be a girl. When he finally persuaded Kerry to visit him in San Antonio, he shot him and buried him at a rural site where he was found two weeks later — just before we realized he was missing. His murderer had been e-mailing me pretending to be Kerry, so I wouldn’t know he was missing. Because of this, I find great comfort in trying to help others who are have lost children. The man committed suicide while awaiting trial.
I wouldn’t want to bother Taylor’s family right now while they are still in shock and besieged by the media. I remember how overwhelmed my family was at that time, so I would like to ask you to give Taylor’s mom my name and e-mail address so if she would like to talk to someone who has gone through a very similar experience later, she will be able to contact me. She may have such a great support system around her that she won’t feel the need, but I just feel compelled to try to help her in some way, just as I wish I could help Natalie’s mom.
I would also like to thank you for the kindness and sensitivity you show while interviewing the families of victims. They are dealing with such stress and grief! Having grown up in the Chicago area and having gone to school at St. Norbert’s in DePere, Wisconsin, I think it is your Midwestern roots as well as your character that help you to be so empathetic.
Thank you so much for your help!
Send your thoughts and comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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