The story behind the stories
After almost 20 years in the writing business, I’ve got all the credentials and awards you might imagine a journalist to have, but when I look back at the highlight reel from the last two decades it’s the people I’ve met who I remember most.
I’ll never forget my interview with an atomic soldier who survived a series of blasts in the Nevada desert while his commanding officers watched the mushroom cloud from miles away. The headlights melted on the jeeps that had been staged at ground zero, and he said they looked as if they were crying. Read Ray Buell's story here.
I was forever touched by the 16-year-old girl who allowed me to follow her through her pregnancy with a series of stories that shared her struggle with her decision to place her child for adoption. I wept outside her hospital room door as I heard her son’s first cries. Natasha's story is told in three parts here: #1, #2, #3. Bring Kleenex!
I’ve covered numerous wildfires and will always remember those families who lost it all, and yet were willing to share their stories with me while we stood at the charred foundations of their homes. And I’ll laugh every time I think of the shop owner who hastily changed the sign outside his store to read “Business is Booming” as fire crept down the mountainside toward the tiny town of Wolf Creek where a 50-year-old stash of dynamite lay sweating in a shed. Quick work by an Air Force bomb squad saved the town, which kept its collective sense of humor throughout the ordeal.
So many people have shared their stories with me over the years, that I’m saddened to say I don’t remember every one. I wish I could because each one is extraordinary. To be allowed such intimate access to people and their passions is something that drives a true sense of reverence.
To be a storyteller is to hold every story sacred and allow it to unfold itself in your hands. It sounds like serious work, but when it’s what you love to do, and I do love it, then it is easy.
Again, I have to be honest, here, too. The work I’m allowed to do is extraordinary, but my life is ordinary in every way. I like to talk about storytelling, but if you really want to get me started you’ll ask me about fly fishing, or book binding, or creative journaling, or gardening, or public land access, or my sweet husband and our feisty, imaginative daughter or our two dogs Fin and Crow. We live in Red Lodge, a community-minded little mountain town in southeastern Montana that’s on the way to Yellowstone National Park. I’ll go on about that too, because it’s so beautiful here and our adventures are abundant. Find out what’s inspiring me at the moment on Instagram at mtlaurabailey.