Fifty years ago today a man climbed to the top of a tower on the campus of the University of Texas and ended, not only the lives of 14 people, but also my journalism career.
I was working as a copy girl at the Albany Times Union during the summer of my sophomore year in college. My job in the afternoons before the deadline for the evening paper was to carry the copy from the bank of very loud teletype machines to the copy editor. I tore stories off as they were typed and made sure the editor had the latest news stories from the wire services with which to work.
As the story broke the wire services were updating the death count every few minutes. As the deadline for press drew near, the editor told me to just stand in the teletype room and shout the latest number out: ten…. eleven….. twelve.
I don’t know if we went to press with the final number or not. I do know that my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in journalism died that afternoon as well. This was one of the first mass shootings, surely my first. It was necessary to put all feelings aside and just report, yell, the numbers. That evening I decided journalism as a career demanded more than I was willing to give.