In this business, we see a lot of ugly things. You know getting into this that you'll cover car accidents, murders, fires and see a side of life that most people only have to see if they're experiencing it, it's just part of the job.That's why the days where I get to write stories about people, about their real lives and what they've been through and what makes them tick, it's a very good day.
I'm not sure that I'll be making any New Year's resolutions or anything like that, but as 2013 is almost upon us, I've spent some time thinking about the people I've written about in the past 12 months. It's been a good year and I've been lucky enough to meet and write about some incredible people. And because it's that time of year when we like to make these kinds of lists, here's a short list of my favorite stories from this year.
Brianna Banda, the skating car hop, seemed like a neat person when I sat down and started talking with her about her job flying through the Sonic parking lot on roller skates. She seemed like a nice kid, but I was still surprised when she told me her story, how she had landed on the ground, splat, dropping a tray of food, and how she got back up on her feet and just kept going. She didn't waste time worrying over why she fell or being embarrassed or scared to fall again. She knew what it felt like and she just kept going. We've all had those moments where we literally or figuratively fell with a splat, and it's in those moments on the ground, covered in metaphorical slushy, that you get the chance to choose how you'll handle this, if you'll let it define you or not. Brianna didn't and I've thought about her story so many times since it ran in September. Yeah, we may fall and we may fail and things in life may not be perfect, but if you have the guts to get up and not let it scare you, you learn and you keep moving forward. "Once you do one of those, it can't really get any worse," she decided. "If you fall, you fall. What's the worst that can happen? You fall again?"
Jose Perdomo is another person that really bowled me over. With no warning, he let a photographer and I come out and watch him make kolaches while he shared his story of how this guy from El Salvador ended up on Yoakum on a nightly quest for the perfect kolaches. Growing up, Jose had never heard of kolaches and yet he found himself in a kitchen in Texas making them. His first attempts were awful, indigestible burned lumps of pastry, but he learned. He didn't let his initial failures stop him. Instead, he kept going and is still working in the small hours of the morning to get better at his craft.
Then there was the Calhoun High School cheerleader Allie Gonzales. She was born a little person but Allie and her amazing family decided early on that her size wouldn't define her. Still, even her parents were worried when Allie decided she wanted to be a high school cheerleader, but she did it. Watching her cheer at the homecoming pep rally was thrilling, because I knew how hard Allie had worked to get to that spot on the gymnasium floor and because she was stunning to watch. Huge smile, a clear voice and a way of looking out at the crowd that couldn't help but make you cheer along with her. Other people may have doubted her, but Allie never doubted herself. It was a sight to see.
Another story that will stick with me is that of Joe Hooper, a former marine who served in Afghanistan and came back having to learn to deal with what he'd experienced over there. Joe shared his story with photographer Frank Tilly and I in a way that was honest and impressive. He had the guts to talk about what he has gone through in the hope that it would help other people who might be experiencing similar things. It takes a lot of courage to face the kinds of things he has struggled with and even more courage to talk about it.
There are a lot of other stories I could mention - everyone that talked with me for our series on the Eagle Ford Shale, and I;m still awe of the group of people who turned out to dismember an entire whale on Matagorda Beach a couple of weeks ago. It's been a good years for stories and it's been a privilege to get to tell them.
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