Saturday, February 05, 2011

Funeral of Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger

You never want to cover a funeral. But when you have to, you just pray for the clarity of mind to capture the images that will tell the story... to show your community how much people loved the deceased, and the incredible respects rendered by his or her colleagues.

Honestly, I expected to feel unwelcome yesterday... there are many funerals journalists cover where those attending don't understand why we are there. I think part of feeling unwelcome is knowing that you truly feel uncomfortable being there.. that you think others can smell it on you.. that they can read it on your face.. and that that will translate into how others consequently might treat you.

This time was different. After I had been at the church for a while before the funeral, one of Sgt. Baitinger's sisters approached me and asked me who I was with. We chatted for a little while, rather emotionally. Before leaving me to return to her family, she managed to say through tears, "Thank you for being here to tell the story."

Folks, if there's ever one thing you can say to a journalist that will stun them, even choke them up, and maybe make them feel okay... that's it.

Thank you, Baitingers and Wisconsin police community for letting me be with you. I hope I did your story justice.

Dep. Jason Brockway of the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department Honor Guard approaches the front of church during visitation before a funeral Mass for Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger at St. Bernard Catholic Parish in Middleton, Wis., Friday afternoon, Feb. 4, 2011. Baitinger, who worked for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Police Department and was a Middleton, Wis., native, was killed in the line of duty on Monday, Jan. 24.

A black mourning band covers the badge of Middleton Police chief Brad Keil before the funeral Mass.

Madison Police Department patrol officer Alexandra Nieves consoles Madison Police Department detective Dave Miller during visitation hours prior to the funeral Mass. Miller said he knew Baitinger from when Baitinger worked for the Dane County Sheriff's Office and Miller for the Middleton Police Department.

Police from around the state of Wisconsin turned out by the dozen to attend Sgt. Baitinger's funeral.

Paige Baitinger, the wife of Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger, is consoled by her brother Lorne Gayzagian as Msgr. Douglas Dushak incenses the remains of her husband.

Paige Baitinger holds a necklace close to her during the funeral Mass for her husband.

Police department honor guards from around the state of Wisconsin lined up to offer a final salute at the conclusion of the funeral Mass.
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