Reporters on the job

INTO THE EYE OF A STORY

Journalists work hard to keep a certain distance, a sense of objectivity about the events they are witnessing. But Catherine Elton suddenly found herself a participant in an emotional family reunion while reporting today's story from El Salvador.

She met Robert Kennedy, the American who adopted a 6-year-old Salvadoran boy, at a hotel cafe. "He told me the story of adopting Michael. One of the things he kept coming back to was the baby sister who Michael remembered," Catherine says. He recalled the day Michael, as a young boy, had seen an episode of M*A*S*H, where Hawkeye Pierce saved a baby. "He found Michael was acting out, cradling and rocking a baby with his arms empty, and crying for the baby." Officials at Pro-Busqueda, the organization that had planned the next day's reunion between Michael and his biological father, said that they might have also found Michael's baby sister, now a young woman. But nothing had been confirmed.

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"So, Robert is telling me these stories and Michael [now age 26] comes into the cafe and sits down with us. Five minutes later, a young woman clutching a newspaper clipping runs in to the cafe and stops in front of Michael. She is trembling as she says, 'Are you Michael Kennedy?' He says, 'Yeah.' And she says in English, her voice quavering, 'I am your sister.' Michael was frozen at first, then he ran outside looking for the Pro-Busqueda people to see if this was for real. They came running in, apologizing, but it all came together so fast. It was so overwhelming , I had to work to hold back my tears.

"Then the members of her adoptive family came into the cafe. We pulled tables together, and I was the translator for what turned into a couple of hours of reconstructing the past [Michael doesn't speak Spanish]. I couldn't believe this was happening, and was almost unable to control my emotions. It wasn't watching breaking news or world history in the making. But it was the single most-moving and beautiful moment of my life as a journalist. It was a strong reminder of the real reason why I do this for a living." Let us hear from you.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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