Covering the Kim Story
By Pat Dooris 12/07/06
I spent two days in Southern Oregon covering the story of James and Kati Kim and their daughters.
Like everyone else---it breaks my heart the way it all ended.
Often when we go on these stories we know there's a chance they could end badly but we hope for the best.
Like most viewers---the more I learned about he family the more I liked them---without every meeting any of them.
I too have young children and it terrifies me to think about spending a week stuck with them in the car in some remote area.
I was impressed at how the Kim's cared for their daughters and kept their heads during what must have been an excruciating week.
Maybe that's why it touched us all so much. We live in the Northwest and can imagine it happening to us.
I arrived in the small town of Merlin on Monday at the command center for the search and rescue effort.
An hour later word spread that a private helicopter pilot searching on his own, spotted Kati and called in the rescue helicopters.
There were only a handful of us reporters there for the announcement by the Under Sheriff Brian Anderson.
You could feel the excitement in the moment as he talked about finding James Kim alive.
I suspect that sheriffs and others who often take part in searches, go into them proclaiming publicly they'll find the missing person alive, but privately knowing it could turn out much differently, especially if the person's been missing for some time.
But this was different. Anderson and the searchers truly believed they were very close to finding the father and husband who bravely set off on foot in the wilderness to save his family.
That night---I sensed frustration but determination. They hadn't found him. But crews in the field felt they were so close that a group manning "cat-1" asked to stay out---sleeping overnight in their location on the mountain --- instead of coming in to the search base as Merlin.
They did stay out and began their search Tuesday morning at dawn.
By mid-day Tuesday---more hope---more excitement when searchers found pants belonging to James---and later his shirts.
The media arrived en-masse.
Suddenly at least ten satellite trucks with generators running constantly crowded into the parking lot across from the search headquarters.
Tuesday afternoon I asked Anderson I question I knew would strike at the heart of the moment.
I asked him how frustrating it was---being close enough to find his clothing---but not James Kim.
He said it was extremely frustrating---and mentioned he and everyone involved---was treating the hunt for James as if he was a member of Anderson's own family.
I think that's why it hit Under Sheriff Anderson and everyone else so hard when searchers discovered James' body Wednesday (12/06/06).
I had returned to Portland but was listening to our broadcast on a cell phone when Anderson confirmed the discovery.
It didnt surprise me a bit when he choked up after speaking the words in front of a crowd of reporters.
Its one thing to know, intellectually as the head of the search, that the person you are looking for is found, but dead.
Its quite another to hear the words come out of your own mouth, feel them sink into your heart and realize what they mean.
It means the search is over. The effort to help a man we all grew to a admire, failed.
The hopes that took us higher emotionally than we might otherwise let ourselves go on a search like this---left us that much farther to fall.
While it doesn't hit any of us as hard as the family of James Kim, its still so very sad.
We all hoped for a miracle.