The hardest part of covering the Trolley Square tragedy was the funerals. I did three in two days. First was the service for Vanessa Quinn, a woman who lived life to its fullest. It was “Nessa,” as she was known to her friends, who was the body seen in news photos of the shooting.
Arriving early, I talked with a member of the family who was acting as the family’s intermediary with the media. Ed Quinn welcomed me in and said it was okay to photograph the service. He told me about Quinn’s husband Rich, walking around the house this morning, saying aloud, “Nessa, where’s my good shirt?”
I previously wrote about Rich’s experiences with photographers on the night of the shooting. He found out about his wife’s death after seeing her body on a photographer’s camera. I’ll follow that up in a minute.
Vanessa had been an amazing athlete, excelling in mountain biking, skiing, and soccer. The memorabilia of her active life was on display.
The service was basically an open mic session emceed by Rich (above). He remained calm and composed throughout the emotional service as friends, family, and even a full soccer team got up to share their stories and feelings.
Even photographing with the family’s consent, I felt a huge responsibility to act respectfully. I put my cameras on single-shot and made exposures sparingly. When Vanessa’s sister Jen got up and told of the loss she felt, she bared her soul. Her love for her sister is obviously endless. This is a moment I will never forget.
When it was over Rich tightly embraced friends.
As people were milling around after the service, I noticed a late arrival- the photographer who showed Rich the photo of Vanessa at Trolley Square.
The photographs of Vanessa prone in the mall had become dominant image of the murderous events that night. The publication of those photographs caused a lot of anger in the community. But Rich Quinn didn’t see the photograph as the biggest problem. In fact, during a press conference in the wake of the shooting he thanked the photographer for showing him the photo.
As that photographer told me in an e-mail, “The man was distraught not knowing what happened to his beloved spouse- whether she was just wounded or dead. He couldn’t get a definitive answer from the police.
“While the photographs made that night have rocked the community, they also provided closure and the end of a roller coaster ride of emotions from not knowing for the husband. The publication of the photos on the Internet also allowed friends of couple to know what happened to her. They recognized her, too.”
Rich’s friend Joe told me how when Rich collapsed at the scene of the shooting after seeing the photo, the photographer’s flash had gone off inadvertently (as he hit the shutter button to turn of the LCD screen). Joe said, “we nearly kicked his ass.” But after talking to him they had come to better understand his intentions.
Now, at the end of the service, Rich gave that photographer permission to photograph his last goodbye to his dear wife. This is my photograph of that moment.
It’s really a shame that you couldn’t all have been there. Vanessa Quinn was more than just a victim of the Trolley Square shooting. Nessa, described through the stories of her friends and family, was one of a kind and won’t ever be forgotten. My thanks to the Quinn family for allowing us to be there. I hope that our articles and photographs captured the spirit of Vanessa’s life, as well as your feelings of love for her.