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Reporter's Notebook

January 30, 2010

Reporter's Notebook: Putting a face on tragedy

By Mark Boshnack

Life as a reporter means never really knowing what is going to be coming your way.

The most ordinary day can become one that you will never forget.

I was reminded of that again Jan. 20, when the first reports came over the newsroom scanner, shortly before 3 p.m., of an accident involving a tractor-trailer and a police vehicle.

It was several hours later that the tragedy took on a human face when word started to spread that state police at Oneonta Trooper Jill Mattice, a school resource officer at Franklin Central and Unadilla Valley Central schools, had died in the accident.

Reporting on tragedies such as Mattice's death can be one of the hardest assignments. While it is my job to inform our readers about who the person was, there are family and friends who are dealing with their grief and may not be willing to talk.

Mattice's immediate family, including her husband, Troy, of Oneonta; parents Jeff and Karen Farrar; and brother Nate Farrar of the Cheektowaga area, would soon issue a statement through the state police that they wanted privacy to deal with their loss.

But in the case of Mattice, who touched so many lives, there were other "family" members who could share their feelings and talked about who Mattice was. This included her school in Cheektowaga, Troop C at Sidney, and the Franklin and Unadilla Valley central schools.

The loss was on the faces of many of the 500 state troopers, and many others who attended her funeral in Williamsville. The display of respect for Mattice and support for her family and fellow troopers is something that I will never forget.

It reminded me of something several people at Franklin had talked about several days earlier.

School psychologist Jen Potrzeba said that for students and staff, "the event reminded them that life was short. You never know."

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