Reporter Notebook: Documenting Charlotte's strife

Reporter Notebook: Documenting Charlotte's strife

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Finally an evening off. I write this while sitting on my couch, attempting to watch some mindless reality TV... But I can't seem to relax. What if something else happens?

The pit hasn't left my stomach since Tuesday night. The night I watched pure chaos inhabit Charlotte's streets as anger and rage flowed through the veins of its people.

Being a reporter often comes along with accusations of "fueling the fire" and "sensationalizing" stories. I wish that were the case. But the sights and sounds our team described over and over again for hours Tuesday and Wednesday night were as real and raw as they come.

In the first paragraph of his book, Anderson Cooper writes "You run toward what everyone else is running away from. Hoping your camera will protect you, not really caring if it does". I've loved that quote since I read it in college, but this week I lived it for the first time.

For years, I've had aspirations of one day becoming a foreign correspondent. I've always had visions of myself in a Kevlar vest reporting while explosions rattled in the distance. Who would have thought I wouldn't have to leave beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina to experience something similar.

The tension was evident the second I arrived on scene, Tuesday afternoon. Keith Scott's shocked and grieving family members passionately insisted their loved one was holding a book when he was shot and killed. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said the exact opposite. They said it then and still stand by their story: Scott was armed and refused to drop his gun.

Outside police tape, I watched the crowds grow. Ten, 20, 50, 200... Then, I lost count. Tuesday evening started as a protest and quickly shifted into a violent riot. Some people were out there to spread their message peacefully, others were out there to spread chaos.

My photographer and I made our way through the crowd while verbal insults were thrown our way. People we'd never met describing us in cruel and hateful ways. We were standing off to the side when something, I still don't know what, hit me so hard the breath flew right out of me. Much worse, another one of our photographer's had to go to the hospital after a rock was thrown at his head. We were just doing our job.

The violence then moved to the interstate. Another reporter and I stood on the overpass and watched in disbelief as fires were set and rioters hurled rocks at cars speeding by. What was happening? How could this be Charlotte?

We hoped Wednesday would be different. It wasn't. My makeup ran as I reported through tear gas and watched rioters hijack the message of protesters who were calling for change in a peaceful way.

But in the midst of the hatred, I also witnessed kindness. Countless people walked up to our crews to make sure we were okay. Water bottles were handed out. I received dozens of messages from strangers saying they'd been praying for our safety. I felt those prayers.

And then there was peace.

We've now had more days of peaceful protests than violent riots. Tensions are still high, people are angry, hurt and demanding answers. But they're doing it in the right way. I only hope the calm sticks around. After all, I'll always root for good over evil.

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