On the evening of May 21, 1994, we had a testimonial dinner in Saratoga Springs, New York for Tom Constantine. Tom had just left the New York State Police and had been sworn in as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration a few weeks earlier.
The night before, New York State Police Investigator Ricky J. Parisian had been killed outside a supermarket in Oneonta, New York. Ricky was involved in undercover narcotics work in and around New York City. He was home with his wife for the weekend. They had gone out shopping. A robber came into the store while they were there. The robber was armed with a shotgun. Ricky tried to arrest the robber and was killed. Before he died, Ricky pulled off the robber's mask. Witnesses saw the man's face and later identified him when he was arrested.
Mr. Constantine said sadly that we would probably find the story of this tragedy somewhere in the B section of the next day's newspaper. In fact, it was on page 34. But even if it had been on the front page, it wouldn't have communicated the grief and shock that went through our community.
"OFF-DUTY TROOPER SHOT AND KILLED"
On the death of Inv. Ricky J. Parisian, NYSP
20 May 1994
Oneonta, New York
You could fill an encyclopedia
With important things ignored by the media.
But news is news and heaven knows
They'll boil it down to newsman's prose.
Reporters scramble to get the scoop;
A quote from someone in the loop.
They stick to facts; no room for stories,
Legends, myths or allegories.
The people have to have their news,
Their recipes, their sports and book reviews.
The headlines strive to catch the eye
Inducing John Q. Public to buy.
"Postal Worker Runs Amok".
"Train Collides with Speeding Truck".
"Bureaucrat Throws Monkey Wrench".
"High Heaven Reeks of Scandal's Stench".
And so on and so forth and ad infinitum.
But once in a while the eye scans an item
Reporting a story aimed straight for the heart.
A story untrammeled with hype or with art.
A story so simple, so clear and so terse
That it moves us as though it were written in verse.
It appears at the bottom of page thirty-four.
It says what it says. One could hardly say more.
We're not offended; be it however brief,
It speaks oceans of anger, admiration, gratitude and grief.
It won't sell more papers or make their stock rise,
Attract them new sponsors, win the Pulitzer Prize.
It crosses the line 'tween the Truth and mere news;
Between lyric poetry and the editors' views.
For a moment the media work as they should
To bind us together for everyone's good.
By reporting the facts and the dates spark the feeling
We share in our grief and in sharing start healing.
Such a one came this morning when I opened the Times.
'midst the scandals, disasters, the wars and the crimes,
Among, yet apart from, the ephemeral facts
Was shining a simple and selfless act.
And see how little space it filled:
"Off-Duty Trooper Shot and Killed."
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