As I was driving back to the office yesterday from Uriel Loya-Bucio's funeral mass in Oxnard, I began thinking about what I learned and what I didn't.
I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's back up:
Loya-Bucio was gunned down in front of his 10-year-old son Monday night near Durazo Auto Sales in Oxnard, where he worked.
My colleague, John Scheibe, spoke to Loya-Bucio's son and brother next day when he went to the business.
By contacting the family on Wednesday through Loya-Bucio's former employer, I learned about the funeral mass and got permission to attend with a photographer.
When I arrived shortly before the service was scheduled to begin, I found a small group of people clustered outside Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Oxnard.
They were standing quietly and didn't look like they wanted to be bothered. Just inside the church, people were taking turns looking into Loya-Bucio's coffin and embracing family members, some of whom were wailing with grief.
This was not the time to jump into the fray with a notebook, I felt, and I didn't.
During the mass, the priest spoke about prayer, faith and forgiveness. He spoke about loss and heaven, but there was no eulogy.
After the service, the devastation this killing wrought on the family was palpable.
As the hearse pulled away carrying the coffin, a woman another relative described as Loya-Bucio's wife cried out in anguish, over and over.
I waited. When the hearse was gone, I approached a man in the back of the group, who turned out to be Loya-Bucio's uncle. I spoke to him and a few friends and associates of the 32-year-old homicide victim. They talked to me generally, saying he was a good, happy, hardworking man, and soon took off. While I was speaking to them, most of the others had left, too. The family was preparing to accompany Loya-Bucio's body to Mexico.
This made me think about the story as an iceberg.
I had seen the tip of the iceberg, but there was obviously much more to Loya-Bucio's life and to the tale of how his tragic death altered his family.
I'm sure that's the case in every tragedy I report on.
How could it not be? Often still in the fog of shock and disbelief when I contact them, survivors of murder and accident victims are processing grief that could take months, years or a lifetime to come to terms with.
I've spoken with survivors of murder victims who make frequent pilgrimages to the cemetery and even the scene of their loved one's death years after their tragedies.
Loya-Bucio's killing was the 26th homicide in Ventura County this year alone. I usually have a matter of hours to report and write articles about these incidents.
In this context, the reality is that many stories about tragedies are only a glimpse into the earthshaking realities they represent for the people involved.
But even if reporters are only able to offer a glimpse of these human experiences along with as many accurate facts as we can gather about the incidents themselves, I think we're helping people understand their communities and each other. And that, simply put, is one of the ways I define my job.