An Interrupted Life
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The hospital was being inundated with media requests from local, national and international outlets. They recommended, since the media was not going away anytime soon and were going to report on the incident regardless, that we hold a press conference. Not being in the right frame of mind, we held a "voluntary" press conference just two days after the incident while our daughter was fighting for her life. After the press conference, we made the decision to not hold any more media interviews and put all our energy into our daughter's recovery. Nevertheless, due to the persistence of The Columbus Dispatch desperately wanting a story, we reluctantly agreed as long as it was ONLY about Rachel's recovery and not about the incident. We thought it would be a good idea to have Rachel's story told and also a good way to receive those extra prayers. Well, we didn't get exactly what we asked for, but we did receive those much needed prayers. Things changed once the editors got a hold of the story. There's a saying, "once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever." We learned first hand just how true that saying is. The series, originally planned for four days, was condensed to three by The Dispatch. As a result, considerable background material was left out and parts were taken out of context opening the door to misunderstandings about Rachel, her family, friends and even the event itself. Rachel's story was once again being brought to the forefront and there was no shortage of comments from radio talk shows, forums, blogs, letters to the editor, personal mail and phone calls; it appeared everyone had an opinion. Had we known the article would have received so much attention, we most certainly would have never agreed for it to be written. Most of the comments were supportive, but some were very hurtful. All we wanted was to be left alone so we could focus on Rachel's recovery. The story wasn't all bad, in fact, a lot of good came out of it . . . it so captured Rachel's amazing spirit! One letter to the editor best summarized the series: "The articles regarding Rachel Barezinsky were of love and friendship, faith, hope and recovery."
The three-part series titled "An Interrupted Life" began on July 15, 2007. For months, reporter Encarnita Pyle and photographer Shari Lewis, shadowed Rachel, her family, and her friends as they documented her daily struggles, her amazingly strong spirit and the prospects for her future, as well as how the shooting affected everyone around her. Click here for the background to this series.
"An Interrupted Life" received a first place award in the annual 2008 Ohio SPJ Awards for "Best Feature" Online story. The series also received a second place award in the 2007 APSO awards for "Best Enterprise Reporting". The judges' comments: "Best written story in the category. Gripping detail".