Meeting people and telling their stories

Here was the plan: Go to graduate school, then get job teaching English literature. All these years later, I’m not a tenured professor at the University of Washington. I’m not an instructor at Everett Community College. The classroom, it turned out, wasn’t for me.

After working at the UW Daily newspaper the last couple years of college, I landed an internship on The Everett Herald’s copy desk — where there were no computers yet, only typewriters. That summer of 1978 led to a job at The East Oregonian. And three years later, in the spring of 1981, I was back at The Herald.

Today, looking back on nearly 39 years as a journalist in Snohomish County, I feel most grateful for the people I’ve met through the stories they’ve helped me tell. Some of them were mentioned in a 2017 article, when I marked the 20th anniversary of writing a local news column.

Since then, one of them — Pearl Harbor survivor Robert Jared Dickson — has died. I’m humbled that I was there, in his living room in Arlington, when in 2016 the Navy veteran shared images seared in his memory of retrieving the dead from the water in the aftermath of the Japanese attack.

I won’t forget Mr. Dickson, who died in October at age 98. I won’t forget so many remarkable people.

Nor will the tragedies covered in The Herald during my decades here ever leave me: the Oso mudslide that killed 43 people. or the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting, which took the lives of four students and the shooter.

The stories I’ve most enjoyed telling haven’t been breaking news. What a privilege it was to visit a new mom and her baby in Providence’s Pavilion for Women and Children and chat, too, with her husband. An Army National Guard sergeant, he was in Iraq, where he’d been able to experience his daughter’s birth through the use of laptops, webcams and an internet connection.

I’m both a Herald writer and a Herald reader. The newspaper is dropped on the porch of my Everett home every day. Our staff is smaller — a lot smaller — than when I first arrived in the newsroom. Still, I’m consistently proud of the work my colleagues do, day after day, week after week, year after year.

Julie’s columns about the local community appear in The Herald a few times each week. Support her and the newsroom with a subscription or donation.