I was enjoying a two-day break from summer classes, although studying seems to linger with me now wherever I try to hide.
It was the first time I hadn’t stayed head-first in textbooks in some time.
After a day’s worth of family goodness, I discovered a bed to sleep in.
As I found the beachesque-colored pillow in which to finally allow myself a peaceful night slumber, my phone vibrated.
It was a former staff member.
“Hey, did you hear about the shooting?”
From that point on, being a journalist was no longer an idea in my head after graduation, it was a necessary role my staff and I owed Auburn University and the surrounding community.
The following morning, the news was already on most major news stations.
Even ESPN had gathered a statement from coach Chizik regarding the deadly shooting that occurred the night before.
I talked to CNN and CBS, all within twenty minutes.
Although I was at the beach, I never really made it there.
I spent my only full day away coordinating coverage back to Auburn from the top floor of a beach house, keeping social media up-to-date and continuing to investigate any and all leads.
I returned to campus a day early. Something about the beach just makes life easier, and that’s not what I needed.
With just a few college minds, we continued to cover the shooting, dragging ourselves through long nights at the office and countless cups of coffee.
Through the standoff in Montgomery until the alleged killer turned himself in to officials, we were there, all the while attending class and trying to find a few hours of rest in between.
The shooting killed two former Auburn football players, an Auburn resident and injuring three more. It was possibly the worst incident in Auburn history.
Several days later, Harvey Updyke found his way to Lee County.
Jury selection was beginning and a sliver of hope seeped into the hearts of the Auburn family, as the alleged poisoner of the Toomer’s Oaks was to finally stand trial.
As our community editor, Andrew Yawn, continued to sit through the tedious task of jury selection at the Lee County Justice Center, something happened. And it wasn’t the first time.
Yawn saw Updyke with his wife close to an elevator during a lunch break. His decision to walk just a few steps further instead of leaving the courthouse changed the following week’s news feed drastically. It also gave the national media a reason to continue to count on student media for breaking news.
Updyke confessed to Yawn. Confessed that he poisoned the Toomer’s Oaks. “Did I do it? Yes.”
These five words found there way to the front page headline that week. They also helped Yawn receive a gag order the following day.
Apparently it’s “strange” that Updyke confessed to someone who works for a student-run publication. Someone who reports because they enjoy it and knows the importance of gathering just the facts and leaving the rest alone.
In The Plainsman office, above a computer on a tack board, there are numerous reminders posted, most of which are recurring mistakes that plague out journalistic minds after seeing it over and over again in the paper.
There will soon be another reminder posted and it will remind us how easily our world can shift from fifth to first over night.
How a relaxing summer semester can take three innocent lives and how we can never take advantage of tomorrow.
As Independence Day comes by every year, take a moment this year to remember.
Thank all the veterans, current and past, who fought for the greatest nation in the world. Remember your family and friends and all they have done, and remember the victims of the June 9 shooting.
Although a confession may dominate the headlines for a week, a tragedy will be remembered forever.
As the fireworks flare and rumble deep in your gut, I hope the good news will follow.
It’s time to get back to the stuff we all laugh about and find ourselves making curious faces about when we read it.
Although reporting tragedies is necessary and we owe it to the community to utilize every resource we can, there’s nothing like watching Nick Saban throw his headset on the turf in disgust and then write about it.
As we continue our daily coverage of all things Auburn, we don’t want the money; we don’t want the notoriety; we just want the facts.