Month: February 2007
Orem fans. Taylorsville – Timpview wins the state championship. Orem vs. Timpview High School, 4A Girls State Basketball Championship game at Salt Lake Community College.
Now that I’ve escaped from the tragedy of last week into the calm of this week, it’s hard to go back and revisit the assignments I had covering the Trolley Square shooting. By the end of the week I felt like I’d been to a war zone, at one point covering three funerals in twenty-six hours. I never went to J-school, but I’m sure the stress I felt isn’t covered in Photojournalism 101.
It’s the Wednesday following Monday night’s shooting. I’m sent over to the Talovic family’s house where we hear that Suljo Talovic, the father of Trolley Square gunman Sulejman Talovic, might have something to say.
When I pull up to the house, two other photographers (from other news outlets) are already there on the front porch with Suljo. And before I get out of the car, one of the photographers follows Suljo inside the house and shuts the door. I walk up and from what I can gather, this photographer had called up a friend in the Bosnian community who vouched for the photographer. So he’s now inside getting exclusive shots while we stand around in the front yard, waiting for whatever comes next and jealous of his forethought.
After a few minutes a TV crew pulls up. Then the family spokesperson comes out. She tells us that the family doesn’t want to talk, that they’ve been through enough and like everyone else, they are suffering. She offers to relay some questions to the family inside and come back out with their answers. The TV reporter has a question, and asks, “Did Sulejman like to go fishing?” Now remind me, what percentage of Americans get their news from television?
The spokesperson goes in and then, to our surprise, Suljo, the gunman’s father, comes out. He starts off by saying that this is the absolute last time he will be talking to the media. Two of his daughters are also outside, holding flowers that friends had given them. Suljo is talking, but I can’t really remember what he said. I was too busy shooting. I do remember him saying, “I don’t know” to most of the questions about his son. He told us that the family was devastated and that his wife had suffered a heart attack the day before, overwhelmed with grief.
Then his daughter walked up on the porch behind him and was overcome with emotion. It was such a sad moment, and it wasn’t until later that I could really process it emotionally. Standing in the front yard I had to focus on the photography. I do remember thinking that the photographer still inside the house was missing some great moments out here.
Then the door to the house opened and Suljo’s wife, Sabira, walked out. It was obvious that she was lost in the tragedy, completely out of it. I quickly moved over for a few frames before the family spokesperson grabbed her and took her back inside, away from the cameras.
This post first appeared here.
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.