Witnesses To History

We are witnesses to history.

THAT is what we do in the news business. We witness it and we document it. In the past days, we’ve witnessed more than our share in an intertwined tragedy the likes of which I’ve never seen before in all my years in the news business.

The Thursday before last we all woke up to the news of a tragic mass shooting– Innocent people gunned down for no other reason than being in the wrong place. The names, the faces, the people, forever tied to the Borderline. We were only just beginning to learn their stories, to document what happened, to share with Southern California, to grieve, when our reporters on scene started talking about the smoke plumes overhead.

In the middle of non-stop coverage of the shooting tragedy, with so many questions left to be answered, something happened that I had never seen before. Reporters began having to divide their reports: showing the mass shooting scene over here and then spinning the camera around to show the ominous and growing smoke plumes over there.

And so in an instant began the intertwining of tragedies that would affect the Los Angeles area.

We are witnesses to history.

Soon, we were fully moving crews in the direction of the fires. And the fires would dominate our news for hours and hours more as people evacuated to flee the flames. The same community which dealt with the shootings now dealing with the fires. And they were spreading fast.


Guilt is what I felt that a mass shooting, such a horrifying event, where so many innocent people were killed was so quickly removed from the headlines because we had been thrust into another crisis. I had NEVER seen that. But sometimes the news comes over you like an ocean wave and this was one of those weeks.

We are witnesses to history.

And the story being written in the coming hours was one of devastation and destruction. Homes destroyed. Lives thrown into chaos. Lives lost. Flames. Rubble. More evacuations.

And Borderline. Those faces. Those victims. They deserved more attention.

By Friday morning, neighborhoods had been decimated. We didn’t even know it yet. People struggled to locate their loved ones. People were still trying to evacuate as flames raced towards the ocean. Paradise in flames.

The weekend brought a fresh look at the devastation and the new week brought other close calls. New flareups. New flames.

And still the faces of the Borderline victims. As we learned of fatalities in the fire, we prepared for funerals for the Borderline victims.

When families allow media to cover a funeral, it is our honor and duty to share that story with the viewers.

We are witnesses to history.

Maybe in just a little way it was redemption for us to be able to finally share more about the lives and stories of the victims of Borderline. One week after the shooting, as the fires had settled, and evacuees still waited to return, with Southern California freshly scarred, we shared the funeral of Sergeant Ron Helus, one of the heroes of the Borderline shooting.

Law enforcement from across the state in formation, in uniform, in mourning. The stories at the funeral, precious, and heartbreaking. That Helus had the first date with his future wife on the same date, so many years ago. That Helus proposed to his future wife, at the restaurant which would one day be the Borderline. As they sang Amazing Grace for a life well-lived, I gulped in the back of the control room.

We are witnesses to history.

The week closed with journalists I know gathering to prep food and meals to feed the firefighters and first responders and those affected by the fires.

The week closed with people writing thank you’s to all who have helped Southern California get through a week the likes of which we had never seen before. Tragedies intertwined. Tragedies not to be forgotten.



A tragic history. Witnessed.

About Pete Wilgoren

Author of Dadmissions. Pete Wilgoren is an Emmy winning journalist, blogger, and author writing about parenthood, life, and other stuff
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s