Essay

I can’t help but feel guilty.

I wrote the article about her. I put her life’s story on paper.

And now her depression, that thing that made such a compelling story, had beaten her. Now she’s dead.

***

It was the first story of my junior year, and I wanted to make an impression.

The story was about our Spanish teacher, Jorge Correa, helping his wife, Inda Correa, recover from depression by translating a book, Struck by Living, into Spanish. It’s a book that deals with the difficulties of depression and how to overcome them, and it’s written by an alum’s mom. Eventually, Jorge teamed up with the author to publish the Spanish version of the book, Decidí Vivir.

It was a strong story, and I poured myself into it. I did the research, conducted multiple interviews, went to the photo shoot. It paid off.

But during the lengthy interview process, I sensed something strange. I asked to interview Inda, but Jorge told me that we couldn’t meet in person, only over the phone. She likes to stay in the house. No visitors.

That was when I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I knew I wasn’t just writing an article; I was telling this person’s story, and this story was not an easy one to tell. They trusted me. I had to understand, be compassionate, tell it right.

I could hear the pain in Inda and Jorge’s voices. I can still see his tears when he told me his wife had lost the will to live.

The story was about her recovery from depression, but I knew in our talks that the story was not over. Her fight was not over.

I really should not have been assigned that story. I was still too fresh and naïve. The biggest story I’d written up to that point was a preview of the State Fair — of the giant cowboy named Big Tex — and now I had to convey a depressed woman’s life story?

I had to learn on the fly.

So I had to be careful and mature. I couldn’t squirm when my teacher broke down in front of me. I had to listen and console and get him to go on. Try to guide him down that road he didn’t want to travel. Because that’s where the story was.

I couldn’t just drill them with questions, I had to immerse myself in their story, becoming close with Correa and his wife over a series of conversations.

I could easily have come back to my editor and told him it was too sensitive. Maybe I should have, but now I was invested in the story and engaged in their lives. They wanted the story to be told, and I wanted to protect them and tell it the way it should be told.

That article became the cover of our September 2014 issue and went on to win best news feature in Texas. The headline: “A Translator & Lifesaver.”

I was proud. I had somehow made it through the story, and along the way I realized that I might even be doing some good for the Correas. Maybe this story could finally close up their wounds.

I was wrong.

***

The Dean of Campus sat down with my journalism advisor and me, looked us in the eyes, and told us that Inda had passed. We were some of the first to know.

I knew I had to do something. I went into action, wrote a card, got it signed by the entire newspaper staff, sent flowers. I couldn’t let him suffer alone.

It’s these moments in the story when my duty as a journalist resonates with me most. It’s this moment that defined the story most, and the moment that shaped me into a more understanding, mature, and honest storyteller.

Now, more than ever, he needed the sensitivity and maturity I had learned. I didn’t just see the pain this time; I felt it. I wasn’t done with the story yet.

I don’t think I’ll ever be done with this story. I’m part of it.