The story behind the story - Catholic Courier

The story behind the story

When you go into journalism, you don’t do it for riches or glory.

But I’ll be the first to admit that when I received news recently that a story I had written won an award from the New York Press Association, I was extremely honored and excited.

As I explained to my daughter why the award meant so much to me, I also reflected on how I truly felt that story was meant to be.

Late last summer, Father Laurence Tracy approached me during an assignment and informed me about the tragic death of a woman from the community. Her name was Maria de los Angeles Viera. She had been known as "Maria de la Clinton" because she spent so many of her short 53 years living on the streets of Rochester as a drug addict.

I couldn’t attend a memorial service Father Tracy held for what he called Maria’s street family. But I couldn’t get Maria out of my head.

I connected with her niece shortly thereafter and set up an interview, which was cancelled at the last minute when I got to her house. But as she was about to drive away, she asked if I wanted to talk to Maria’s daughter, Sandra Martínez-Viera, who just happened to live across the street. Sandra met with me and talked quite openly about the struggles she had faced in trying to help her mother. I felt Sandra’s heartbreak. But I also was left with great admiration for her candor. I cannot say I would have had the same courage.

I hope our conversation helped Sandra.

And as I walked out her door, carrying the photograph of Maria and Sandra in happier times, I felt we were both fulfilling a mission by telling Maria’s story.

To save a life.

Click here to read the award-winning story.

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