I don't normally wax nostalgic but today I will make an exception.
The other day someone asked me about my former career as a journalist. No sooner did they learn I had been a print news reporter for more than a decade, they asked: "What was the most interesting story you ever covered?"
Wow. That's a hefty question, especially when it is directed at someone who has written thousands of stories. I felt obliged to pick one, mentioned it, described it, and he was satisfied. That night, however, I found myself still turning the question over in my mind. I was dissatisfied with my own answer because it hardly scratched the surface of what I found to be my most interesting stories.
Elmer Popejoy fought across the desert during WWII as a part of Operation Torch. He distinguished himself in combat as a sergeant and later wrote an autobiography of his experiences. I met with him many times prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I listened carefully as he described the screaming sound of the German planes ("Der Stuka", he said) as they strafed the desert all around him on a near daily basis. I saw the pain in his eyes as he described each of the young men who were blasted to pieces right in front of him.
I interviewed firefighters who were part of the response team during the 9/11 tragedy in New York. I remember how they spoke in stunned tones about the tragedy; explaining their surprise at finding debris from the collapse a mile or more away; reams of paper from the office buildings, jammed into tiny cracks in the concrete buildings, or wedged with a vengeance into steel fire escape ladders. Even months later these men and women, trained though they were to handle even the most dire emergencies, were still coming to grips with what they'd experienced. Some of them still are, to this day.
Most of all I remember the day I was to fly with the Red Baron Pizza Squadron. My daughter, Annabelle, was just three at the time. The squadron was in town for an airshow and I had secured a ticket to fly with them, interview their flight leader and even shoot some video. I was nervous--it was my first flight in a WWI bi-plane with an open cockpit. Similar to what Snoopy flew when he went into battle with the Red Baron. Anyway, I woke up early and was headed out the door when my daughter stopped me.
"Where are you going daddy?" she asked sweetly.
"I'm going to work, honey. I'll be back later."
She paused, a worried look crossed her face. "No," she said. "You'll never be back again." Then she turned around and toddled away.
Needless to say it took every ounce of my courage to get into that cockpit and fly with those guys that day. No matter they were some of the most skilled pilots who ever took to the air. Never mind that they logged a safety record which was exemplary; I was afraid my daughter had psychic powers and this was her first prediction.
Fortunately for me my daughter is NOT psychic. I came home safe and sound with some awesome photos and videos, and a story I can tell my grandchildren.
So, when it comes to my favorite stories, I guess the answer is, I have so many it is difficult to narrow it down. But a few always seem to push their way to the surface.
How about you? As a writer, what are your favorite stories?