Off The Press

August 20, 2013

By Kathleen R. Merrill

Chandler and Jamie, this column is for you

I got two emails last week, on two consecutive days, that made me cry.

The first, an announcement and a photo, was one of joy — Chandler Balkman was getting married.

You may remember Chandler. On Aug. 3, 2006, Balkman, then 16, and his father went for a swim in Lake Sammamish.

As they swam back from a buoy, Chandler was accidentally hit by the family boat, driven by his then 19-year-old sister.

His right leg past the hip was amputated and he endured countless surgeries, including a pelvic realignment and reconstructive surgeries to other areas where he was hit by the boat’s propeller. Fewer than 1 percent of all people who suffer such an injury survive, his doctors said.

Chandler may have been knocked down, but he got back up strong. He healed, headed for college and now he was getting married. I felt like a proud mom, even though I never met Chandler in person.

The second email I received was about Jamie Soukup Reid. Her father wrote to say she and her husband of three months had been killed in a car crash.

You may also remember Jamie. She was an intern for The Issaquah Press in the summer of 2007. She was a bright light on our staff, making us laugh and reminding us how exciting this business is.

She wrote stories about all types of people, and she found every single one of them interesting to tell. She was intelligent and engaging, funny and cool. I had several calls and emails that summer about what a great experience people had being interviewed by her.

On Aug. 11, Jamie and her husband were killed. On an Asheville, N.C., highway, the Lincoln Town Car in which they were riding veered out of control, went down an embankment and struck a tree. They were heading home to Philadelphia after the wedding of a friend. Police are considering charges against the driver.

Jamie was pregnant; she had ultrasound photos in her purse. The couple had told their families and the news was about to go public. Just the week before, Jamie had affectionately started calling the baby “Peanut,’’ telling a friend the ultrasound made it look as though it was waving.

I cried about these two young people because I care about each of them, one I knew fairly well for a brief time and one I felt I knew very well over a few years even though I still have yet to meet him.

I hate when people describe the media as an entity and make generalizations about all of us with comments good and bad. Here at The Press, we’re all individuals. We have no agenda, no ulterior motives when we tell our stories. Sure, we all have our individual opinions — you can’t be 100 percent objective.

But as individuals, we breathe and eat, fall down and cry, live and love, laugh and die, just like everyone else on the planet. And we care about all of the people we write about.

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