Covering tragedies is one of the hardest parts of being a journalist, but at the same time, it is one of the most important.
The family was not ready for media interviews. And they may never be. But I know that years from now, the widow will be talking to the couple's unborn child about his or her father. And I want to make sure we gave the family a fitting tribute story to remember him by.
The family of Spc. Christopher Harris asked for a private funeral. They were OK with media staying outside and snapping pictures along the funeral procession route, but did not want media at calling hours or the graveside service.
The Observer was going to respect the family's wish, and I'm so proud of that. Unfortunately, I've seen media disregard a family's wish for a 'better' story and creep too close to the burial to service. I hate that.
I was the lead writer on a four-person team covering the funeral procession for Spc. Harris. I was stationed at the funeral home, where I talked to people about paying their respects. And, alas, I ran into soldiers I know who were attending the funeral. I guess that goes to show how small, yet powerful the military community is here in Fayetteville.
I continued to tweet from the scene for people who could not be there in person. My tweets were liked and shared over and over throughout the day.
Another writer, Michael Futch, was stationed at the cemetery, where he respectfully approached people to share their memories of the soldier.
Melissa Sue Gerrits shot still photographs along the route, and Hrisanthi Kroi Pickett stayed near me to shoot video. Hrisanthi broke away to shoot live video feed (through Facebook) of the funeral procession entering the cemetery. The procession took more than 20 minutes to enter the cemetery - and our readers stayed with the video the entire time. Many people commented that they appreciated the live feed because they could not attend in person. It was an incredible reminder of our role as journalists to also fill public service role.
At the end of the day. I wove together my content with Michael's for the final story.