Looking Back: My First Day

July 9th, 2013 is a day I think about all the time, almost every single day it seems. I consider it my first day out on my own and no longer shadowing another photographer at WGRZ. I was still pretty green with the overnight shift and what responsibilities it entailed. As the day would progress I'd be thrown to the proverbial fire and cover two stories that I still think of daily.
~The Riverside Call~
Every night I turn on multiple scanners to monitor police and fire activity. As I was told by a former manager at my old station, "nothing good happens overnight." There aren't too many ribbon cutting ceremonies or parades at 3am in Buffalo; most of the breaking news overnight has some element of tragedy. Being new to the job, and monitoring scanners, I was still a little overwhelmed listening to so many channels and determining which incidents were newsworthy. A lot of the times you'll hear calls for domestics violence, motor vehicle accidents or dozens of hipsters riding their bikes down Delaware ave. A lot of the times I'll jot down the incident and see if it develops; nine times out of ten it ends without any newsworthy appeal. Another thing I have to determine when listening overnight is - will this incident cause a widespread effect later on this morning? Will a rollover accident in Hamburg at 3am cause a traffic delay come 6am? At any given time I'm monitoring six different incidents that could quickly turn from bad to worse to newsworthy. It's a difficult and slippery slope; it's the part of the job I also love. At approximately 2:40am the call of a structure fire on Riverside Ave came over the scanner. Multiple engines and fast teams were called to respond. The initial report indicated the occupants and an infant made it out of the home. As I was gathering my gear and preparing to go to the scene I missed some key information that I wouldn't learn until I arrived on Riverside Ave. Upon arrival, I could see flames shooting out of an attic window, engines were still arriving on scene, fire crews racing to get water on the fire and an ambulance pulling in behind me as I drove down the street. The significance of this is important. By that point it was approximately 3:07am; crews had been on scene for roughly for 20 minutes without an ambulance. As it would turn out, an infant was badly burned by the fire. Investigators would later determine the fire started in the infants room when a fan sparked and ignited the fire. Firemen worked on scene to keep the infant, a six month old boy named Savior Lopez, alive. While on scene I couldn't hear any of the scanner traffic but at one point there was a back and forth between fire crews and EMT's about the response time of an ambulance. Firemen nearly drove the infant to Women's and Children's Hospital because an ambulance wasn't on scene. EMT's arrived and took over first aid of Savior, and I began hearing the emotional screams from family members. Savior's mother was weeping on the ground, and his father knelt beside her. Both of them also suffered injury from the inferno that engulfed their home, but refused treatment until their son was attended to. Amidst the smoke and mist in the air I noticed the EMT's stretchering the infant towards the ambulance, which was behind me. The infants parents still screaming into the night as disbelief set in. They rolled the stretcher past me as they worked on reviving baby Savior; police officers embracing the mother as they escorted her to the ambulance. Savior's father walked in a daze with his hand on his head, screaming "god...no...god no." As they approached me I did what many photographers wouldn't do, I turned camera off and tilted it down. I didn't even consider if that decision could have gotten me heat back in the newsroom (it didn't). From a photographers standpoint it was an awful shot; it was dark, I would have needed to turn a light on and it would have caused more of a scene. From the standpoint of a new father, as I was at the time, there's no reason to show a family at their most vulnerable moment. We don't live in a war zone where it's more acceptable to show those moments.  The ambulance rushed away to Women and Children'ss Hospital and fire crews focus on extinguishing this fire that, by now, spread to a second home.  By the time the ambulance left and the fire chief was about to brief the press, about an hour had passed. There was a seriousness on scene that you, as I've since learned with experience, only see with serious fire incidents. A few firemen were noticeably emotional, police were somber and the standby EMT's silent.  Finally, around 4:05am, Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield Jr. addressed the media and confirmed what I had suspected. I returned to the newsroom to ingest the footage and interview I had gathered while Heather Ly and photographer Mike Luksch went to the scene to go live for the 5am & 6am broadcast. By our midday newscast (see below) more information came in. It would turn out the closest fire house was closed that night due to new staffing rules imposed by the city.  I'll never forget the screams from the infants mother as they rushed passed me. It haunted me for a week whenever I would try and sleep. The fatal Riverside Ave fire wouldn't be the last thing I covered on July 9th, 2013. In fact, my long day was about to get longer.
~THE sun street homicide~
In the chaos of news gathering during the Riverside Ave fire, another call came in, this time a shooting on Sun Street. Sun StreetI arrived on scene and parked on Oakmont Ave. This area is the location of the Langfield Public Housing Residency  near the (Rt)33. The initial report was a shooting and I arrived to see a fleet of Buffalo Police SUV's, EMT's and fire crews. Dozens of residents were standing outside their homes I would soon learn this was a homicide. The victim, Raymond Carmichael, had been shot around 11pm July 8th. He had been shot by a shotgun at close range; to date this this still the most gruesome scene I've covered in news.  Raymond's body wasn't discovered on the stoop he was killed on until daybreak on July 9th. Residents told me they thought they heard kids playing with fire crackers, given the proximity to the 4th of July holiday. Police weren't called until early morning when it was light outside.  Many residents of the neighborhood were concerned who the victim was. They couldn't reach their sons or brothers and given the Police barricade they couldn't know for sure who the victim was or if they were related.  Homicide investigators stayed on scene for most of the morning and as the hours passed the crowd of residents thinned. Buffalo firefighters washed away the scene as if it never occurred. If you go back to Sun St today, as I was recently in that area for another shooting, you won't find a memorial or any indication something horrible happened there. Raymond Carmichael's death still hasn't been solved, nor has 33 other homicides from 2013.    July 9th, 2013 still remains one of the hardest days of work I've had in news. The events of that day make me think a lot about violence in our city, ambulance response times in poorer areas of Buffalo, and other issues. Unfortunately the answers to those problems are bigger than me right now. The highlight of the day, if there was one, was going home to spend the afternoon with my daughter; who can always lift up my day no matter how dark it is. 

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