This Community Reporter Has Covered 3 Mass Shootings In 3 Years

Feb 15, 2018
Originally published on February 15, 2018 11:58 pm
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In the crush of reporters covering the news around the shooting in Parkland, Fla., is a 23-year-old journalist named Lulu Ramadan. She's been a community reporter at the Palm Beach Post for three years since she graduated from college. She tweeted, quote, "I envy reporters who only covered an out-of-the-blue mass shooting once upon a time." That's because in her three-year journalism career, she has covered three mass shootings - at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Fort Lauderdale Airport and yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I spoke with Lulu Ramadan today, and I asked her if she's developed a routine or a checklist for covering these tragedies.

LULU RAMADAN: It's sort of developed on its own. When the Pulse nightclub shooting happened, I just hit the ground running. I got a call just before 5 a.m. It was a Sunday morning. My editor just said, you've got to get to Orlando. There was a terrorist attack. I just got in my car and started driving, and when I got there, it was chaos. I just kind of tried to grab as many people as I could, you know, anyone who possibly could have been a witness, anyone near the scene.

Now, it's almost like it's become a routine because I know - I'm braced for the chaos that I'm going to be, you know, walking into when something like this happens. I know what the scene is going to look like. Unfortunately, it's repetitive. It's a lot of the same. The only difference is, you know, different victims, different place, different time, different number of people hurt and killed.

KELLY: Do you struggle to come up with new questions to ask with a new way to write the lead?

RAMADAN: I think that every tragedy has its unique set of circumstances. A lot of the details are the same. You know, you always hear about the gunshot blast echoing through a hallway. In this case, it was a school hallway. And you're talking to students about, well, what did you think when you woke up this morning? And they're thinking about a math test, or in this case it was Valentine's Day, and they're thinking about if they're going to get a valentine from their crush.

And you talk to them about the little things that really just shattered when something like this happened. And I think that's what I try to focus on with interviews in all these different scenarios. But a lot of times, you do hear the same sort of response. You get a lot of the victims, witnesses, bystanders all saying we never could have believed that this could have happened to us.

KELLY: Does it get easier, or does it in a way get harder having gone through this three times now?

RAMADAN: It's both. It's gotten both easier and harder. It's easier in that I've done this multiple times but harder because you have to do it over and over again, you know, harder because it's the same question and sometimes the same responses but you know in the back of your mind that this is just an entirely new situation. And more people have been killed, and it's a new tragedy. And that's always hard.

KELLY: Yeah. Have you heard from older, more seasoned reporters today in reaction to your tweet saying you envy people from my generation who didn't have to cover this every year?

RAMADAN: I definitely have, and I've found that to be the most interesting of the responses to the tweet, seasoned, longtime reporters who have said, you know, I remember when I covered Columbine. And at the time, that was the major event that you cover in your career that 20 years later you tell people, I was there; I covered Columbine.

And after Orlando and the Pulse shooting and being there, sort of after the dust settled I was sitting there. I thought this is that major event that you think about 20 years later and you say I was there; I covered that. But it wasn't long after that Las Vegas happened. And while I didn't cover that, I realized that there was something more deadly regrettably that people are going to look back on. And then it just sort of kept happening, and it makes you think, am I going to remember these 20 years from now, or is - hopefully not, but is something worse going to happen that surpasses all of this?

KELLY: Lulu Ramadan - she's a reporter for the Palm Beach Post. She is 23 years old, and this is the third mass shooting she's been assigned to cover. Thanks, Lulu.

RAMADAN: Thank you.

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