Last Thursday morning we heard the air ambulance being dispatched to Woss over the scanner.
Because it was deadline morning I didn’t leave for the little mountain town right away, but once the first section of the paper was done my editor sent me on my way.
I’d never been past Sayward on Highway 19A.
As I rushed to the scene of the accident I practiced what I was going to say if the residents questioned why I was there.
“It is important to cover events like this to hold the company accountable, ensure it doesn’t happen again and to honour the lives of the victims,” I said to myself over and over again.
I had Google mapped and took a screen shot of how to get to the accident site.
But Woss isn’t very big, I would have come across it eventually.
I parked and took some photos of the logs that littered the track, before attempting to get closer to the accident scene.
“Are you with the media?” the RCMP officer asked me, as I approached with my camera on my hip. “I’ll ask that you don’t go past this vehicle. And just so you know, the locals are not happy that the media is here.”
As I expected, I wasn’t able to get anywhere near the scene of the accident.
There were still people trapped, still work being done.
I couldn’t see anything, only residents gathered around the area waiting. One woman sat on a front deck with her head in her hands. I didn’t take photos of any of it. As I waited, watching, trying to get a feel for what was going on, a woman with a walkie-talkie on her hip came up to me.
“I know you’re just doing your job,” she said. “But…”
She asked that I not take photos. She asked that I spare the children who lived in the community seeing the accident on the Internet.
She told me that none of the residents of the close-knit mining community would talk to me.
She asked me to leave.
Even though I had tried to prepare for this, I didn’t say anything but “I understand.” These people are mourning, I knew I wouldn’t be able to reason with her and seeing her emotion made me doubt my presence there at all.
The friendly and helpful RCMP officer directed me to where the air ambulance was waiting so I drove across the railway tracks and joined the other media who had rushed to the scene to wait.
They, in their years of experience weren’t as rattled as me, only frustrated that no one would talk to them, antsy that they were having to wait.
I stayed until the air ambulance took off with the last victim, careful not to take any shots of him as he was transferred from the ambulance to the helicopter. We don’t want to use that photo.
Waiting in Woss that day, I questioned whether I should be there.
Why is this news?
Why is it important that people know about this?
Do I really want to be a journalist if this is what my job is?
I don’t know.
But I’m still here.