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January 26, 2008 - Joe Gorman
Some stories grow and are living, breathing things, just like people. And that is what this fire story has become.
Every day since this has started, there has been a new layer, and sometimes these new layers are added hourly. The only two stories I can compare it to in terms of growth are when Youngstown police officer Michael Hartzell was killed in 2003 and the Oak Hill fiasco in 2006, when the Cafaros tried to stop Mahoning County from purchasing the former South Side hospital.
In terms of rapid new developments (at least in stories I've covered) all three of them were rapidly growing stories, although the Oak Hill story was different because there the new layers were added daily, not hourly.
However, the Hartzell and fire stories are crime stories, and crime stories, by their nature, are not stories that wait for a person or persons -- like the Cafaros or the commissioners -- to take action. They have a momentum all their own, and sometimes they can run you over like a freight train.
Today, a Saturday, I didn't expect anything new after the events of this week, but as I drove up Stewart Avenue, there were white dresses affixed to the telephone poles with pink and green ribbons attached and a man was standing in the front yard of the home, where he had arranged a makeshift shrine of the toys and stuffed animals being dropped off. He also made a cross out of charred wood from the home and crime scene tape.
People were stopping to look and add things, and one man who dropped off a teddy bear said he was on the way to the funeral home to make a donation to help the family pay for burial expenses.
Tomorrow I will be off but there is a candlelight vigil slated for 6 p.m. that people at the scene said is expected to draw ministers from churches all over the city.
When the Hartzell story broke, I was covering another beat, but I was asked to help out, and I remember the updates, the reports of homes being searched, the rumors of a hiding place in Mill Creek Park for the man ultimately convicted of killing the officer (who committed suicide on Death Row), but the night he was arrested, the police department called a press conference for 11 p.m. to announce his capture in Florida. (I began covering Youngstown shortly after, and I covered the trial of the killer. I have been on this beat ever since).
I was working nights and we had 20 minutes notice of the event. I was the sole reporter on duty, so I jumped in my car and literally flew from Warren to Youngstown. There were a few red lights that may have been run, but no one needs to know about that.
Yesterday, I got a call and was informed I had about 20 minutes to talk to the mother of the suspect if I wanted. I did the same thing again, this time racing against rush hour traffic, but I made it on time. Talk about deja vu. And I didn't even have to run a red light this time. But it was close.
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