Reporter's notebook: 'My heart is broken for the families'

Story highlights

  • CNN cameraman Chris Turner spent days in Newtown, Connecticut, after the shooting
  • When asked, "How do you guys separate yourselves from the emotion?" he said, "We don't"
  • Turner: "My heart is broken for the families. ... It's something that will never go away"
It's been raining steadily since about 3 a.m. and a little chilly outside, too. The roads are crowded with cars backed up for miles. Some people have chosen to park and walk a long, sad walk with flowers, candles and stuffed animals in their hands. They've come to add their thoughts, prayers and condolences to a growing memorial. They've come to pay their respects and to say goodbye.
I've been in Newtown, Connecticut, for three days now. I haven't slept more than two hours a night and the only food that I've had is a quick trip to Burger King on the way to set up for live shots in the early morning hours. I'm very tired and so very hungry but I keep telling myself, "I have nothing to complain about. My problems of sleep deprivation and hunger pale in comparison to the families that lost their most precious little ones."
Then, while talking to the clerk at the front desk of the hotel, I was asked a question -- something that I really hadn't thought of before, something that I really didn't think mattered. She asked me, "How do you guys deal with this? It has to be so hard for you. How do you keep so composed?"
I didn't know what to say. In fact, it stunned me that someone was concerned about how a TV cameraman feels about being here, where so much innocence was lost. So when she asked me, "How do you guys separate yourselves from the emotion of what's happening?" all I could answer was, "We don't."
I've been to so many events like the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in my time at CNN. I've seen disasters caused by Mother Nature and tragedies that were man made. Every one of them has touched me in some way. Each one is leaving its permanent mark on my heart and mind, as it should.
I sometimes wonder, do people in communities where something so horrific happened know this about the media? I think about all the people that we have talked to -- and some of those that didn't want to talk to us -- and hope that they know we aren't here because we want to be. We aren't covering this story because it will give our networks ratings points. I wish I didn't have to come to Newtown, Connecticut, for this story. I wish I could have come to this picturesque New England town to cover its history.
Anything but this story. Anything. But I'm here.
When the clerk at the front desk of the hotel posed those few simple questions to me, I didn't really know what to say other than that I don't separate myself from these types of stories. I can't and I shouldn't. As a father of three elementary-aged children, it is impossible to do so. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
But when I leave this quaint little town, I will leave forever changed. My heart is broken for the families that lost so much. It's something that will never go away, nor do I want it to.
I will go home and hug my kids more than I already do. I will make sure to kiss them as they head off to school and tell them I love them before they close their eyes to sleep. I will take even more time to recognize the little things in life and the little ones who make life special. And I thank the people of Newtown for reminding me of this, for sharing their stories and teaching me so much. I just wish I didn't have to learn that lesson this way.