Thursday, February 22, 2018

Houston journalist realizes connection to Parkland victim while covering the story

KPRC 2 photojournalist Gil Gredinger had to cover the horrific Parkland, Florida shooting and then deal with the fact he's originally from the area and has ties to victim

Gil Gredinger's Twitter bio photo taken at the implosion of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia when he worked in that market.

We have heard many horror stories from last week's Parkland, Florida shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 lost their lives.

The story became personal for one Houston television journalist covering the news from the scene.

On that Valentine's Day, KPRC 2 photographer Gil Gredinger's day was about to be altered from the daily routine of covering Houston news.

As I wrote last week, former channel 2 reporter Jennifer Bauer, who recently moved to the area of the shooting, was re-hired on a freelance basis to the cover the breaking news for Houston NBC affiliate.

Gredinger jumped on a plane to join her.

The longtime Houston photographer happens to be from Hollywood, Florida. Both Hollywood and Parkland are located in Broward County. He describes the area as a tight-knit community.

Upon arriving at the scene ready to start capturing images with his camera, Gredinger realized his professional and personal worlds were beginning to collide.

"I knew three parents who had kids at that school," Gredinger told

One of those kids was Alex Schachter, 14. After getting the proper confirmation, Gredinger was the first, or one of the first, to tweet about Alex's death. That tweet apparently led Gredinger to be mistakenly listed as Alex's former march band instructor in news coverage.

"I went to high school with his father," Gredinger tweeted. "He died yesterday. My heart breaks for his family. I have no words."

Alex's father, Max, recently recited a poem at a CNN town hall his son composed weeks before his death.

"I was hoping no one I knew there had kids that were injured," Gredinger told me. "I wanted to stop working, but I knew I had a job to do."

It turns out the children of Gredinger's other two friends escaped the school shooting.

People in the media learn to suppress their feelings when covering horrible stories. That is why they are sometimes criticized for being cold and uncaring. It is how they survive working in an industry, when at a moment's notice, they witness the worst about humanity or nature.

Gredinger said that keeping his feelings in check became more and more difficult with this story.

"It was like a race horse, you put on the blinders and just go," he recalled. "When I went back to the hotel that night, that's when it hit me."

By Friday, Gredinger was back on a plane to Houston with haunting memories and emotions in tow as the nation must now mourn and deal with this tragedy, past and future ones.

I should note that the Houston TV stations were already in Florida covering the Astros Spring Training in West Palm Beach. Many of our sports reporters were moved to cover the tragedy until other crews could arrive.

Gredinger told me that because so many teams have Spring Training in Florida, stations from across the country had crews in the area, and were quickly diverted to the scene of the shooting.

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