Carbon community diplays caring attitude
Sometimes we hear so much negative about our community that we begin to wonder if anyone outside the Carbon County area ever thinks about us positively.
During the last couple of years, we have been assaulted by the upstate press for our community's relationship with our kids, particularly teenagers, for having a college that had financial problems and for having one of the most dangerous highways in the United States running right through the middle of Carbon County.
So it is very refreshing when someone comes from outside our area and compliments us.
A few weeks ago, a woman walked through the front door of our office and wanted to talk with who had covered an accident that occurred on U.S. Highway 6 last July, where three men from California had been killed. I was that person so I went to the front counter to talk with the visitor.
At first, I suspected it might be an investigator because I often take dozens of photographs at accident scenes and I knew that there was a court case pending in connection with the accident. The investigators sometimes ask for what I took to supplement the police reports and photography.
But when I reached the front counter, the woman shook my hand and told me she was the daughter of one of the men who lost his life in the mishap. She was in the area for the trial of the person who was accused of causing the fatal accident.
At first, I assumed she was at the Sun Advocate to look at the photos of the accident. Sometimes, the family members of victims will come in and want to see the photos. For some people, seeing the pictures apparently provides a kind of therapy.
But the woman came to the office for a different purpose. She wanted me to know not only about her father, but also about her uncle and her cousin who were also killed in the accident. She wanted me to know that they were wonderful people - people she and her family missed very much. She wanted me to know how a tragedy can rip a family apart because the survivors have a difficult time talking about the enormous loss and coping with the aftermath.
The woman told me of the guilt so many of the family members felt. Her father had planned to go to Grand Junction, Colo., to visit his daughter's family and to celebrate his 13-year-old grandson's birthday. He was going to go alone, but his brother decided to drive and, at the last minute, the woman had convinced her cousin and best friend to accompany the men.
When the accident occurred, the family members blamed themselves for why the three men were traveling on the road, on that date and at that particular time of day.
In the business of journalism, one deals with a lot of discomfort.
We often have to sit through long boring meetings or confront someone about something they don't really want to talk about.
We get yelled at for not covering something or for covering something too much.
I have even been yelled at for where something we covered was placed in the paper. I get yelled at for editorials I write and those I don't write.
Journalists have to develop a thick skin.
But there is seldom anything more uncomfortable than dealing with the grief of a family member who has lost a loved one in a tragic accident.
As we sat in the newspaper's conference room, the woman told me the details of her family's grief, the uncomfortable feeling wiggled into my mind and then my stomach.
At times, I almost feel guilty for an incident and a survivor's pain, even though I had nothing to do with causing the tragedy.
While I am at a scene taking photos, I am usually able to separate myself from the tragedy, partly because I am busy and partly because I have a job to do.
But when I get the photos on the computer screen and I have to pick out what we will publish, the whole thing strikes me. And this particular accident has stuck with me more than most incidents I have covered.
Certainly, the woman wanted me to understand that the three men were individuals with families.
But she also wanted me to know what a wonderful community we have and how caring people were when she traveled here for various reasons.
She had some wonderful stories to tell about the people of Carbon County.
The woman indicated that the trial had been delayed several times. She planned to attend each of the hearings and had made reservations in local motels. When she called for reservations one time, she had a conversation with the desk clerk about her trip.
When the clerk heard why the woman was coming to Carbon County, he told her he remembered the accident and conveyed how sorry he was about her loss.
She said she appreciated how warm and sincere the motel clerk was when he talked to her on the phone.
The woman made the reservation a few weeks before the trial. But the night before she was ready to leave for our locale, the county attorney's office called to let her know the trial would be delayed because of last minute problems.
Upset by the delay, the woman forgot to call the motel and cancel her reservation, which she had reserved on a credit card.
She didn't remember about the motel reservation until a few weeks later and, knowing how lodging chains tend to operate, expected to see the charge show up on her month end statement.
But the reservation fee never showed up on a monthly bill because the motel never charged her credit card.
The woman explained, that when she came for the trial, she was pleased with how nicely she was treated by many people, from the county attorney's office to the gas station attendants she had conversations with.
She said the employees at the motel where she stayed remembered the accident and treated her with special care.
People all over the county, when they heard her tale, were wonderful, pointed out the woman. She had many stories about how great the people of Carbon County were to her.
But the story that impressed me the most was one about a local tow truck driver.
The woman had gone out to see the scene of the accident and to pick up a couple of rocks from the place where her family had suffered such a great loss.
As the woman stood at the accident scene with tears in her eyes, a tow truck drove by slowly, then stopped. The driver got out and asked her if she was okay or needed help.
With tears streaming down her face, the woman told him the story of why she had stopped at the site. She said he got a look on his face and tears came to his eye, then he said he was the tow truck driver who had hauled her uncle's car away after the accident.
The tow truck driver had been on that same spot shortly after the accident occurred. After the discussion, he hugged her.
Most people who have lost loved ones in an accident in an area alien to them, once things were over and done with, would never want to see the places again.
But in this case, the woman indicated that Price and Carbon County holds a warm spot in her heart and she will come to the local area time and time again.
I'm not sure people in a lot of places wouldn't have reacted in the same way. But the stories the woman related were about this place and the people who live here.
Maybe local residents are particularly sensitive about what happens on the highway that passes through our area because we all have known someone who has been killed or maimed on the road.
Maybe it's because our area has always kind of been out here on its own, a maverick in the state for many reasons.
Maybe the woman just happened to run into the right people and, if she had encountered other residents, the stories would have been much different.
I don't know the answer to all of the questions. But I do know I have never been prouder to be an adopted Carbonite than I was the day the woman came into the Sun Advocate offices.
Carbon County really is a great place to live.