Most reporters find ways to joke about bad situations.
It’s a good way to let the pressure out, and usually a story you’re not close to.
I remember one where a guy shot and killed his lawyer in Beaumont.
We watched on the newsroom television after he was arrested, being led to the lock-up by sheriffs.
Several reporters shouted, “Why did you do it? Why did you do it?”
The defendant replied, “You’ll have to talk to my lawyer.”
My coworker Greg looked around the room and said, “But how?”
Then there are those times when no one dares laugh.
After 4-year-old Dannarriah Finley was taken from her home in Orange, she was found dead in Port Arthur.
It took several days for officials to identify her.
Several of my coworkers went to Dannarriah’s house every day, as neighbors and friends kept a vigil and talked about what little news there was.
One day, everybody else was exhausted and I got the draw.
On Fourth Street, it was July and hot as all get out.
People sat on ice chests, burned by the sun and wondering.
Around 2 p.m., police arrived to escort the family to the station. Later, they brought them back.
As word spread throughout the crowd, faces went from one last uneasy, yet serene look, to frenetic pain.
I never wrote it in my story that day, but I have a pretty good idea of what hell looks like.
People just stood there, and couldn’t even figure out how to speak. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
For many years, I had dreams about Dannarriah.
She’d stand on the river and wave to me.
And I always waved back.
And she always smiled.

[E-mail Robert Hankins at]