Bouncing through black sky in a plane on the hunt for hurricanes, I realized how lucky I was.
We’d found one and had just flown through the storm’s wall and circled inside its monstrous eye. How many people get to do that?
I was struck by that same feeling when I crossed into communist-occupied East Germany while working on an environmental story.
I’ve had it in the Gulf several times, including once while accompanying the Coast Guard on a drug operation and once when helping crew a sailboat from Florida to Louisiana.
I felt my good fortune when drifting over Baton Rouge at dawn in a hot air balloon, and again when looking out of a helicopter and seeing a bald eagle soaring nearby.
I’ve felt it in bird rookeries and on barrier islands, in swamps and atop lighthouses.
Being a reporter has allowed me a range of experiences most people never have. Many of them have been beautiful.
Others haven’t — countless floods, tornadoes, hurricanes.
Worse have been horrors caused by people, particularly to children and teenagers. The wail of loved ones has haunted many such scenes. Maybe even worse has been the shocked eyes of those not yet able to accept a loss that will change their lives.
Those stories were made bearable by ones of heroism, sacrifice and kindness.
And then there were funny stories, like the beavers who found cash taken in a casino robbery and used it like leaves to fill holes in their dam.
And there were fun stories, like covering my Pittsburgh Pirates in a spring training game. Never awed by movie stars, governors or senators, I felt nervous interviewing my baseball heroes.
What makes the difficult sights and deadline pressures of being a journalist most worthwhile are those stories in which reporters feel they have made a difference.
Early in my career I felt that when doing investigative pieces on public corruption.
Later, that feeling often came during years of writing about air pollution, shoddy disposal of hazardous waste, pesticide misuse, discharges that fouled waterways and shell dredging that made Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas look like chocolate malts. Change came slowly, but it came.
In recent years, the part of my job that has brought me the most pleasure has been writing this column.
Much of the satisfaction has come from the weekly emails, letters, calls and personal comments that let me know I’d touched an emotion, conjured a happy memory or just made a reader chuckle.
As this last column comes to a close, I want to thank you, readers, for making a wonderful career possible.
Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to
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