Carol Reiter: Times when this job is hard

Carol Reiter

Sometimes I love my job.

When I get to report on a good story, like a story about a humble World War II hero who says how blessed he was to be born in the United States, it's a great job.

Or when I write about the unsung heroes in the world who rescue the unwanted animals, like Renate Schmitz at Last Hope Cat Kingdom, and the other rescue organizations in town that spend hours on the road taking animals to places where they can get adopted.

And sometimes I hate my job.

Two times this week I wrote stories that broke my heart.

The first one was about a young man, an outstanding athlete and all-around good guy, who was gunned down at the age of 17 years. DeAngelo Smith became a real person to me when I talked to his wrestling team on Tuesday. Smith was a good wrestler, but more than that, he was an inspiration to his team because he was the first one in the workout area and the last to leave.

I stood in that warm wrestling practice room and listened as Smith's friends and teammates spoke quietly about their friend, D-Lo, and I clenched my teeth and made myself not cry.

I almost lost it when one of the guys on the team told me he gave DeAngelo a ride home a lot, and DeAngelo talked about how much he loved his grandmother, whom he lived with. But his grandma embarrassed him sometimes, DeAngelo's friend said, because she made him come inside the house early to keep him safe from the bad guys.

Then DeAngelo's friend said "Her fears came true."

Yes, her fears did come true. The bad guys, the horror of gunshots on a May night, took her grandson away from her. Those people took DeAngelo away from his friends, his teammates and his family.

For no reason.

That day, when I came back to write my story in our newsroom, I didn't like my job very much. I knew the story I wrote would bring DeAngelo to life to a lot of people who only knew him as a statistic, but still. I had intruded on people's grieving, and I saw a lot of tears that day in that wrestling room, and that was hard to see, because I caused them.

But after talking to those Golden Valley High School students, I wanted DeAngelo to be someone important to everyone who read about him, not just to his friends and family. So I wrote the story.

And then there was Mango.

That sweet little cat, that I met at Dr. Christine McFadden's veterinary office just days after someone had doused Mango with lighter fluid and set her on fire, captured everyone's heart. She was a nonstop purring machine, and she never hurt a soul in her life.

I reported when Mango was burned, and then I reported on Mango going to Utah, where a wonderful nonprofit took her in and started treating her burns.

Then Mango died.

A cat that never did any harm to anyone had died, after suffering burns over more than 70 percent of her body. I talked to the grieving people here who had tried to help her, and then to the people in Utah who went all out to save the little calico cat.

I didn't like my job very much that day either.

I didn't like the fact that someone evil had done something unspeakable to a harmless animal.

Mango's death was tough, but nothing like DeAngelo Smith's. Mango was a sweet cat who didn't deserve what happened to her, but DeAngelo was a young man who was going to be someone.

I had met Mango, and I knew what a sweet little cat she was, and how she brought a whole lot of people together to try and save her.

I never met DeAngelo, but he came to life that day in the wrestling room.

I wish I had known him. I wish I could have seen his picture in the newspaper in the future, in a wrestling match, giving his all. I wish I could have read about him getting his college degree, and then becoming the body builder he wanted to be. I wish I could have heard about his wedding, and the birth of his children.

But I won't. And as much as I love animals, that hurts so much more than Mango's death. Don't get me wrong, Mango made me cry.

But not like DeAngelo did. Rest in peace, D-Lo. And know you are missed.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.