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Editor’s Note: Reporter Jesef Williams is leaving The Lancaster News to take a public relations position in Jacksonville, Fla. He’s worked for The Lancaster News for seven years. Today is his last day.
I’ll never forget the unusual feeling of guilt Stephen Vincent carried as he told me about the auto accident that claimed the life of his son, Daniel Vincent.
Wearing a cast on his left arm, Stephen recreated the horrific scene that saw his son’s Ford Focus crash into a tree.
Stephen was in the car. He survived. Daniel, who was driving, died at the scene.
Daniel was only 22.
Stephen, who suffered broken bones in his left arm, said he immediately knew Daniel was gone.
He said he would have gladly given up his own life if his son could be spared.
“My arm was aching, but my heart was broke because I knew he was dead,” Stephen told me at the time. “It happened so quick. As soon as you blink your eyes, it was all over with.”
In the past seven years as a reporter for The Lancaster News, I told dozens of chilling and heartbreaking stories like the Vincents’.
I’ve always said this job further humbled me because my tasks regularly reminded me of how fragile and precious life is – and also that no matter what you’re going through, there’s always somebody dealing with much more.
I spent a few hours one recent night cleaning out my work area. I came across dozens of newspapers I kept in a storage compartment over the past several years. Sorting through those slightly yellowed pages took me down memory lane and reminded me just how unique of an occupation news reporting is.
During my moments of reflection, I thought about Crystal Streater, whose last name was Hagwood at the time.
I wrote multiple stories documenting her battle against diabetes and related complications including kidney failure, anemia, restless leg syndrome and high blood pressure.
But thanks to a successful kidney and pancreas transplant in 2009, Crystal is experiencing good health and is now enjoying life as a married woman.
However, all of my memories aren’t tied to somber stories.
I’ve been there to see the celebrations of graduation and other personal milestones, the completion of construction projects and the announcement of grants to fund major community outreach projects, just to name a few events.
As a full-time education reporter for nearly four years, it was my weekly duty to spend time with teachers and students, getting firsthand access to what’s trendy in the world of education.
The enthusiasm from the students – especially those in the younger grades – served as positive fuel for feature stories.
During the past four years, I covered municipal government for The Lancaster News. The knowledge gained should be able to serve me well for decades to come. Let’s see, I think I might can explain to the average Joe what tax millage is.
The same goes for other concepts such as property reassessment and zoning.
I also reflect on the opportunities I’ve had to rub shoulders and mingle with “movers and shakers.”
A prime example was when I interviewed then-presidential candidates John Edwards and John McCain during separate campaign stops here.
Looking back, I’ve grown immensely over the past seven years from a personal and professional standpoint. I’ve also established contacts and relationships here that I intend to maintain. As I prepare to head to another state, I’ll always appreciate the true sense of community Lancaster County has provided for me. These memories and experiences won’t soon be forgotten.
They will last a lifetime.