I love my beat neighborhood, and it's full of excitment, but it definitely makes me a little nervous at times.
On Monday at 6:15pm (broad daylight, mind you), a 12-year-old girl was randomly shot by a stray bullet on a main street. You know, I probably should be wearing a bullet-proof vest in this neighborhood. The girl survived, but the case remains rather curious to me. America is supposed to be so safe and well-governed, yet stuff like this happens constantly in Crown Heights -- and all over New York.
After seeing her rescuer, Mekita Coe, on CBS News briefly Monday night, I decided to look her up on whitepages.com. Sure enough, her contact information was there, and I ventured down to her home on Tuesday morning. As I walked towards her her apartment past the lines of old row-homes, I passed by an ABC News anchor walking in the opposite direction.
"You must be from The Daily News?" she asked me.
Nope, I'm just a Columbia Journalism student-reporter -- but actually, she was fine with that and still seemed to take me seriously. I asked her if it was difficult to get to talk to people about the incident, and she said it had been pretty crowded before, but now she was going on her lunch break. I wonder who she had actually spoken to before; you'll see why in a moment.
I ventured on alone with my pen and pad and quickly found Mekita Coe's apartment. I stood there nervously for about 15 minutes before actually ringing the bell, but I finally managed to whisk up the courage. After hearing that I was a reporter over the intercom, Coe actually still received me pretty positively and said she would be downstairs in a bit. So I waited on the porch for about another 15 minutes, getting a good grasp on my surroundings. In the middle of the street, where an NBC News van was parked, I saw an NBC crewman suddenly get into and out of the van. But he lingered, staring at me suspiciously and eying my pen and pad.
He definitely sensed something was up over here.
Ms. Coe came down at last, and we began a great conversation. She thought that it was "cute" that I'm a student, and that made her especially eager to talk to me. Coe is an educated, young black mother in the neighborhood who is appalled by the frequency of such random violence in the neighborhood. In fact, she sends her own daughter away to boarding school because she finds the area so unsafe and the education so horrendous.
We continued to discuss the previous day's events and her reactions and perceptions.
...When lo and behold, who suddenly appeared to interrupt our conversation but BOTH the the ABC and then the NBC camera crews and anchorwomen. Why'd they need me as a lead anyway? All they had to do was do their whitepages homework! And just as I was getting one of the best answers from Ms. Coe, the anchors rushed the crew to snap on their cameras. Hah, that's not stealing?
The ABC anchorwomen urged me to keep talking and doing my job, even though she knew I was a student. But the NBC woman was more aggressive and clearly had to have her way -- essentially she took control of the discussion, and I backed down. [Yes, I'm shamefully aware of my mistaken timidity.]
Nonetheless, this was a fantastic experience, and I got to be involved in the news, firsthand, with some of the bigger networks and skilled reporters. This was really an exciting day...it's horrible, though, that a girl had to get shot in order for me to do my job...