January 23, 2011

Author Q&A: The survivors' stories

Ron Franscell's new book answers the question 'Whatever happened to ...' people who lived through some of the nation's notorious mass murders.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Ron Franscell happened to debut his new book, "Delivered From Evil," on the same day that Jared Loughner fatally shot six people in a rampage in Tucson, Ariz.

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San Antonio journalist Ron Franscell says that writing the book "Delivered From Evil" provided him "a great opportunity to talk about some players in the American crimescape that we seldom write about very deeply, and that is victims and survivors."

Some of them simply won't move on. Some of them will stop dead in their tracks and just wait to die. Others, like these survivors I profile in the book, will attempt to regain their equilibrium and many will succeed, but what they will succeed at doing is merely putting some semblance of normal back into their life. 

Q: How did learning these survivors' stories affect you personally? Did it make you look at your own life?

A: It made me feel like I have a blessed life. I've had a life like you, and like anybody, where I have disappointments, where I have traumas, where I have pain, but I haven't looked death in the face. I think that these people stand as a symbol of our resilience. If they can look death in the face and ultimately put themselves back on firm ground, then I think there's hope for the rest of us.

But honestly, I have also inherited from them, in some way, a certain fear. I covered the early months of the Afghan war for The Denver Post, and I learned during that time how to be aware of my surroundings, how to position myself for maximum safety in restaurants or on the street, or wherever. It all comes back to me when I talk to these people, and even now I'm often flashing back. I'll sit in a restaurant or in a store or even on the street, and think, "What if somebody just started shooting right now?" And that's their experience. 

Q: How do you immerse yourself in so many crime stories without getting scared or depressed?

A: I feel deeply for these people. I think that sometimes in my newspaper writing, I couldn't get as "close to the flame" and feel ethically comfortable about it as I can with the books, where I can come a lot closer to the flame. I can make (my reaction) part of the story. And I think that's how I deal with it. When I'm feeling depressed, when I'm feeling fearful, I realize that that's because the story that's being told to me, that I must now retell, is probably stirring that up, and I have to realize that readers probably want to get that close to the flame, too.

Each of these 10 (stories) touches me in a different way. I see so many different, utterly human feelings in each one of these people that each one is kind of an example of what's possible and what we sometimes think is impossible. They're all heartbreaking. I don't cry easy. I never have. And the longer I went in newspapering and being a journalist, the less I cried. These people, almost to a person, brought tears to my eyes. 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com


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