David Maraniss was interviewed by the lovely young reporter whose boots appeared here once before. He's written books on Barack Obama and Roberto Clemente, on Detroit and Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi. He's an editor at the Washington Post (in his spare time?) and spoke eloquently about covering tragedies and of humanity's need to feel it.
I wrote the words in my notebook before I took the microphone; I asked the first question of the afternoon. How do you balance "humanity's need to feel it" with the intrusion into the lives of those who are the actors in the tragedy?
Some in the audience met my eyes and smiled the smile that says I know who you are, and I took that loving feeling in as I bathed in the warmth of his answer, words said slowly, after a pause:
You cradle them in your hand.
The best of the reporters TBG and I encountered did just that; I wish I had met Mr. Maraniss when I was in the drama. His advice - Find the universal in the particular - was every PTA mom, every playgroup member, every soccer practice family who heard about Christina-Taylor and me and said That could have been you with my child, or me with yours.
He was perfect.
And then there was Amy Dickinson, America's long-winded Ann Landers for the 21st Century, whose column often ran longer than the news articles in the AZ Star, before the editor (who was forced to confess her sin to the final questioner) decided to limit her to one question per day.
She, like all the others, left her stuff on the chairs in front of me. We exchanged meaningless pleasantries and then she was on, acting like my sister on a good day, smart and sassy and full of wisdom. "In these times, it's really important for us to stick together and to stay connected," felt as comforting as she meant it to be; her kindness won us over after two sentences from her book.
Though we chose to hear the happy part rather than the sadder section of the two she offered us, in the end she began to read about the day her mother died.... and she had to stop, to catch her breath, to compose herself. The audience was quiet, unmoving, with a low rumble of it's okay ohhhh sniff underlining the moment. As a fellow shootee sitting at my feet and I agreed, it was a quintessentially Tucson moment.
And that's the ultimate take away from the TFOB - it draws those moments out of talented people from everywhere.