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In search of hope
By Brian R. Hook '93

Angst, agony and despair – these are words that I am comfortable with. As a journalist, I have conditioned myself to report on many of the negative elements in society. I sit at my keyboard and type up the facts without emotion. I write about events, isolated from the pain that inevitably comes with each story. Every day that passes, no matter what the story, someone’s life has changed in a drastic way.

So when it comes to writing about something as illusive as hope, I find myself at an unusual loss for words. How do I describe hope? Does hope even truly exist? Should I even be asking this question? Isn’t this why I chose journalism as a career, to ask questions and hand out answers? But for this, I have no answer.

These types of questions often take me back to when my wife Rachel Zaerr ’94 and I worked in television news in Oklahoma City. We both hoped that covering Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Federal Building would be the worst thing we would have to cover in our careers. But in the wake of Sept. 11, now we ask ourselves how much worse will it get? Where is the hope now?

That April day six years ago still haunts me. First was the boom, followed by the rattle of our apartment. We were not even close to the site of the explosion. We lived about 10 miles away. My first instinct was to run outside. I looked around to see if anything close by exploded. Everything seemed OK. My second instinct was to click on the television. That’s when I saw the first helicopter circle around the front of the Murrah building, revealing a hollow shell of debris with smoke rising from the rubble. Where was the hope?

There was no time to think. I had just returned home from working the overnight shift, and Rachel had just woken up, sipping coffee in her pajamas. After a quick change of clothes, we hopped into the car and drove to the television station in silence, spending the next days and weeks working around the clock to cover the something we never thought could happen.

Still, I worked from inside the newsroom, sheltered from what was going on downtown, but finding it more and more difficult to separate my emotions from my job. While working as field producer across from the bombing site downtown, I finally had time to think.

Throughout that day, I spent most of my time rounding up interviews and gathering information for the reporters to pass along to the viewers. I also spent a good majority of that rainy day across the street from ground zero looking up at the jumbled mess of concrete and steel. Hour after hour standing down below, drenched from the pouring rain in a borrowed raincoat that was three sizes too small, I watched the recovery crews working inside the building.

Hope had long since run out for finding any survivors, yet the rescue workers pushed on. Where was the hope for them?

Anxious people waited and wondered if their loved ones would ever be found. Where was the hope for them?

The death toll continued to rise. Higher and higher the number went. I cannot fathom working at or even near “Ground Zero” in New York. The number of dead in Oklahoma City now pales in comparison to the Sept. 11 losses in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Where is hope? How could God possibly stand by and watch these horrible acts of terror? Plenty of folks have answers to this question. Some might point to the acts of charity following the attacks. Others may rejoice in the recent rise in attendance at religious services. It’s almost like Easter and Christmas every Sunday.

Are these really signs of hope? Or are these signs of people in desperate search of hope? Now bombs are flying in Afghanistan. Here at home, we face the threats of more terrorist attacks. What will happen next? I pray that we as a country and we as a world will eventually be able to answer this question. Are you listening, God? Where is hope?

Brian R. Hook is a freelance journalist based in St. Louis. He has written for U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger Personal Finance and dozens of other publications. Hook also owns and operates a financial news Web site at www.BizBlip.com. Contact him at brhook@msn.com.

Return to December Bulletin contents
About this issue – Stretching our hands toward hope - Editor Rachel Lapp
The end is the beginning – “A contagion of hope”
- President Shirley H. Showalter
Finding hope in the cemetery
- Don Blosser, professor of Bible
'Last hope' brings new life (times three)
- Ryan Miller interviews Jenny Jenkins, assistant professor of Biology
Hope in the final act: It's our scene
- Alan '62 and Eleanor '57 Kreider
'God is still right beside me': A faith walk with MS
- Ryan Miller interviews Kim Kulp Birk '98

In search of hope
- Brian R. Hook '93
Alumni in New York City reflect on 9-11
- Mervin Horst '84, Malinda E. Berry '96

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