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Column: A reporter bids farewell

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

There are millions of ways I could write this column. It’s never easy to say goodbye, even if a new beginning is waiting right around the corner. With less than a week of employment left at the Times-News, I am full of emotions — most of them bittersweet.
My last day is Friday, and eight days after that, I will be getting married and moving to North Charleston, S.C.
While a living situation involving weekly sunbathing, a daily beach walk and gorgeous ocean sunrises sounds more than enticing, I am simultaneously sad to leave a small town that has seen me grow in more ways than one over the last three-and-a-half years.
I knew very little about Lincolnton and Lincoln County when I first walked through the doors of the newspaper office in December 2010. Perhaps, I had even less knowledge of the criminal justice and court system. But I had a passion — to write — and I wanted to leave my mark and make a difference however I could.
On my very first day, I was thrust headfirst into the field. I remember responding to a crash scene with our then-photographer and trekking quite a distance in uncomfortable high heels down the side of what seemed to be an abandoned roadway (perhaps, heels were a poor shoe selection at the time). I was instantly traumatized and not sure I could handle the job after I thought I spotted a number of bloody bodies inside the vehicle. My co-worker and I laughed after realizing what we saw were indeed body parts — just not human body parts. Instead, the van had been filled with mannequin parts splashed with red paint.
Strange? Extremely.
That same day, I switched gears and met Lincoln County’s newly elected sheriff, David Carpenter, during a reception for the agency’s new administration. Little did I know what a good friend he would become both personally and for the paper, establishing open lines of communication between his office and mine from the start.
Over the years, I’ve written close to 1,500 stories — each one quite different from the last. Every day brought something new to the table and sent me out into the community in search of stories pertaining to Lincolnton’s homeless population, drug and sex offenders, embezzlement, murder, fires, fatal wrecks and sporting events. I also engaged with the softer, sweeter side of life by covering topics about faith-filled believers and local artists and musicians striving for success.
Oftentimes, after spending hours covering a homicide story or walking around the Lincolnton soup kitchen listening to people’s needs, I needed the mental break of watching elementary school children practice for a Nutcracker production or hearing a pastor talk about his love for God and others.
While it may be the job of a reporter to write and piece together articles, it’s impossible for a story to come together without help from sources and their willingness to divulge information to the media. I’ve been so thankful for the many community leaders, business officials, law enforcement officers and so many others who, over the years, took time to respond to my over-inquisitive nature and talk, email or meet in person to get the facts straight.
While each and every story has left a lasting impression on me, it has always been the people, places, smiles and faces behind each one that have impacted me the most, particularly individuals’ courage after losing a home in a fiery blaze or a loved one in a wreck — not to mention the number of cancer survivors who’ve shared their inspiring stories of struggle.
I have truly enjoyed working for the paper and among some of the most genuine, down-to-earth individuals in the area. It has been a season of life that I will always cherish — always.

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