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Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015

Covering a tragedy

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Tragedy is doubly hard when it strikes someone you know.

Such was the case for a group of nursing students last week.

Classmate Danyelle Sumrell was killed Thursday when her car struck a school bus near Deason as she drove through thick fog to classes at Tennessee Technology Center at Shelbyville.

Danyelle's fellow students, who likely wondered why she hadn't arrived, watched the details unfold on the Times-Gazette Web site.

They learned of her death by recognizing her car in a T-G photo, well before her name was released by investigators.

And several of those students feel that Danyelle's story was ignored as attention was focused on the heroic actions of the school bus driver.

"My classmates and I are a little upset with how the numerous news outlets have handled the story," TTCS nursing student Amanda Rogers wrote in an e-mail. "The only news anyone has seen is about the kids on the bus and the bus driver.

"I do understand that they were victims, but so was she."

Good point.

Combine the phrase "school bus" and words "wreck," "fire" and "children," and, naturally, the focus turns toward those in the bus. Most of the media, including myself, were guilty.

And the bus driver certainly deserves credit for her care of those children immediately after the wreck.

But Danyelle was, unfortunately, involved as well in a situation she certainly would have done anything to avoid. And her friends and family suffered a much worse loss than anyone on the bus.

It's ironic that the person trapped under the bus was, of all things, a nursing student.

"There are many people mourning the loss of such a great person and the people that didn't know her haven't even seen a picture of her beautiful face," Rogers wrote. We've included Danyelle's photo, supplied by her family for her obituary, here.

The contents of 18-year-old Danyelle's Xanga blog, which speaks in her own words now that she can't, show she was having to deal with a lot of problems she didn't cause. Problems such as many of her generation, and others, face. Problems which she was handling bravely.

She obviously cared about others, as the blog and her choice of vocation show.

"Danyelle was a good student and was going to be a great nurse," Rogers said.

A comment from Danyelle's blog concerning her nursing classes speaks volumes of her attitude toward life.

"Nursing school is ...hard. I can do it though!!! Positive, think positive!"

Danyelle was fortunate to have been involved with people who cared about her for what she was: A young woman who deserves to be remembered as a friend, classmate, student, future nurse ... something other than "the girl who hit the school bus."

And thanks to Amanda Rogers for a well-needed reminder that journalism is also about people -- not just a mad rush for facts.

About our coverage: We wouldn't have done our job if we'd held off on the story, as a few thought we should have. At least one TV news crew arrived shortly after I left about 8:30 a.m.; video coverage hit the air -- and the Internet -- from other sources nearly as soon as we did.

If anyone tells Bedford County's story first -- and accurately -- it needs to be us.

The news would have spread quickly by word of mouth. It's better for people to read the truth from authoritative sources rather than hear rumors and incorrect facts.

We get no thrill out of being the bearers of bad news. It's a necessary part of the job.

Copy editor/staff writer David Melson covers police beat for the Times-Gazette. Your comments welcome: dmelson@t-g.com

David Melson
On the Loose