Thursday, September 24, 2009


I didn't want to write about this, but I promised myself I'd write about the hard stuff too. In order to be true to myself, I wanted to share just a little bit about something that changed me forever.

On a May night in 2004, I was up late in my room in my apartment in Provo, UT. My cellphone rang and it was my sister.

"Brooke Wilberger is missing, and Dad's gone to look for her," she said.

In fact, a lot of people had gone to look for her. In the days that followed a massive search ensued to find beautiful Brooke. While those in Oregon searched, I stayed glued to the television news between classes. I anxiously waited for any news.

I felt a lot of anxiousness those following weeks. I remember a man at the bus stop standing behind me. I kept sidestepping so I could see him out of the corner of my eye, but he seemed determined to stay behind me where I couldn't see him. Yes, I know all rational thoughts told me what happened to Brooke happened hundreds of miles away, but if something could happen to her in broad daylight...

As the weeks and months passed those feelings faded and other responsibilities took over. I found myself writing for The Daily Universe, BYU's newspaper. I was on the campus beat, and I covered a lot of devotionals, service projects, etc. Until November. In November, Cammy Wilberger came to campus. I was asked to cover the story, and I was terrified. I had no idea what I was supposed to say to Brooke's mother, how I was supposed to ask her the hard questions. I knew Brooke, but I had never talked to Cammy before. My mom gave me the Wilbergers' phone number, and I called Cammy in Oregon. The woman on the other end of the phone showed nothing but gratitude that anyone was still showing interest in helping their family. She was kind and loving.

A few days later Cammy arrived on campus and held a press conference. That morning, a story I wrote previewing Cammy's visit ran on the front page of the newspaper. I covered the press conference and wrote another story. The next morning my story (found here) ran on the front page of the paper again. Two stories on the front page of the paper were a big deal to a young reporter. I remember calling my Mom so excited that I had made the front page. Then, it hit me, hard, I had made the front page because of a horrible situation. I felt awful that I had been so selfish and thoughtless to only think of myself and to even consider it "my" accomplishment. I could have done a lot of good if I would have followed Cammy's lead and exercised some humility and gratitude. I realized then that maybe I wasn't cut out to be a journalist, not because I couldn't write, but because I wasn't sure I wanted to know the side of myself that used other people's tragedies to get ahead. I finished out that semester at the paper, and then finished my degree, but I merely went through the motions after that experience.

As the years have passed, I have thought about Brooke and the Wilbergers often. I have continued to follow the story, and have hoped for some sort of closure for everyone. Monday it was announced that Brooke's remains had been found. I felt shock, sadness, and relief. Even though I knew a suspect had been arrested and was headed to trial, I guess I was still subconsciously hoping that Brooke was alive somewhere. The past few days I've found myself once again glued to the news, waiting to see what happened. There is a lot of junk and negativity out there still, but again, Cammy Wilberger shines through as a gracious woman who is grateful. I know Cammy wouldn't want any of this to be about her, but I think its important to recognize her impressive example. Its been hard for me as an onlooker, I don't dare to imagine how hard it has been for her family. At this time, I find myself grateful for my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. I know the Wilbergers have an eternal perspective, and I know that has helped them through this extremely difficult time.


Emy said...

I didn't know you knew her, Laura.

I didn't know Brooke, but I followed her story ever since she disappeared. I ached for her family... I still do. I am grateful they have some form of closure, and I am grateful that they know this life is not the end.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. You had me in tears. I too remember the moment I found out, it seems like it was yesterday. I look back at pictures of girls camp and church dances and try to just think of the good times we had. I am just so glad that the Wilburger's have some more closure!

brad rawlins said...

This is a very sensitive and thoughtful post that clearly articulates the conflict between being a caring individual and an objective reporter who must try to control emotions in order to listen to facts and find information that benefits society. I admire you for your moral sensitivity and the respectful way you addressed this issue.