Monday, June 09, 2003


My friend Henry had a heart attack yesterday.

I call Henry a friend, we've never shared a meal or even a cup of coffee, but I've talked to him or his son almost every day for 18 years. Henry is a creature of the night. A tough bird. An anachronism. A freelance television photographer who crawls the shadowy crag of the city's underbelly with gusto while seeking out the carnage, the cruel and gruesome, the sensational, which, like it or not, is all too often the newsworthy. He lives on the periphery of other people's tragedy replete with the din of a non-stop soundtrack provided by banks of emergency system radio scanners. He is crusty. Foul mouthed. And on the great scale of cynics, he makes me look like Mr. Rogers.

I met Henry in 1985 when I started working at WOAI. He advised me that he was the only reliable source for crime news in the city and I should not only depend on him because it would be to my benefit, but that I should trust him implicitly; ignore all others, and follow his lead and orders. Much of what he said was bravado, but a great deal of it was true. Henry is the best in the city. He doesn't chase ambulances...he beats them to the scene. He hears the blood pumping pulse of the metropolis and breathes in the oft times tainted scent of urban life.

Henry has a skin as hard as granite and relishes in detailing the goriest aspects of man's many misfortunes. As you might imagine, Henry can be a little tough for some folks to stomach but I've always fostered a relationship with him knowing that he is a good news source and that his calcified exterior comes with the territory. He lives in a world where the woes of others are minimized if not mocked because he is perched so close to their pain. It's a carefully constructed wall of protection. To be numb to it, you must reclassify it...remove yourself from it.

Henry's heart attack began at the scene of a grisly accident, where a man was run down and dragged. As his fingers began to tingle Henry opted for the tried and true cure of Diet Coke. When the tingling continued he drove himself to his office. When his chest began to seize he decided to lay down. Finally, he called his wife, who took him to the hospital. Henry opted to have his wife drive him to the hospital, where I stopped by to see him today, because Henry doesn't trust EMS. He told me, "They kill too many people." I had to change the subject in order to get him to stop recanting decades worth of horror stories he had at the ready to illustrate that point.

It appears Henry is going to be okay. Doctors cleared one of his blocked arteries. He could go home as soon as tomorrow. I'm glad he will apparently recover from his heart attack; however as I drove away from the hospital I couldn't help but think that no doctor could really cure him now. His arteries can be unclogged, but his heart is almost beyond repair...ossified by a lifetime of self-imposed mental distance from the worst of humanity which he has spent years within inches of in terms of actual physical proximity. I don't know if Henry's true heart can ever be fixed. I know it will certainly take more than medicines and surgeries.

Today I am praying for real healing of Henry's heart.

Matthew 13:15
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.