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03/16/2017

Behind enemy lines: Meet The Enquirer's storytelling coach

By Amy Wilson, The Enquirer

From time to time, members of The Enquirer staff will write personal essays to give you a sense of the journalists who bring you the news. 

I am the mother of a zookeeper. I own a house built by a soldier who served in the American Revolution.

I garden, can my own vegetables and make jam from berries I grow in my garden. I was head cheerleader at my football-loving Texas high school.

I’m a Texan by birth but have, because of time and pleasure, also been a New Yorker, a Floridian, a Michiganian and a Californian. I now occasionally tear up when, at the Derby, we all sing “My Old Kentucky Home.”

On Sept. 2, 1945, my Uncle Carl was on the USS Missouri as part of the honor guard for Douglas MacArthur when the general accepted the official Japanese surrender.

My father was a Navy doctor during the Korean Conflict. My mother was a nurse and a church organist. We are Lutheran.

I have an American flag draped elegantly in my guest room. I have a dog, four cats and three horses. I once came close to dying because I was kicked in the face by one of the latter.

I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston. I went to law school at Emory University but hated it and left. I went to graduate school of business, hated it and left. I worked for Merrill Lynch but no one was going to give a young woman their money to manage in 1979.

I became a journalist because I believe in what we do and I have worked in the business for almost 38 years. The papers I have worked for have been dubbed, in turn, liberal, conservative, libertarian, too powerful and too weak, arrogant or insipid. In any case, no one ever, in all those years, told me that the story I was to write was to follow some political dictum or slant. And I had some pretty opinionated bosses.

I am 61 years old and I am, now, according to some, an enemy of the American people. Because I have spent my life telling the stories of American lives.

Like when I found most of the women at Florida State University's Chi Omega house 10 years after Ted Bundy killed two of their sisters and badly injured two others. I told of their fear and their triumph over that terrible night.

Like when I told the story of the mother of a Marine who had died in Afghanistan. And how she waited all night with his corpse, sure that he would rise from the dead. And then almost killed herself when he didn’t.

Like the time I told the story of Lisa Frost, a recent college graduate who died on the second plane to hit the World Trade Center. I told of all she had been and all she had hoped to be. And I recounted every step she had taken the month before, the week before, the day before the attack. I even know what she said as she stepped on the plane. She was helping an elderly woman who was afraid of flying. And Lisa was telling her that she would take care of her.

I know this because I’m a reporter.

I am many things, but I am not confused.

I am not the enemy.