Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A different kind of celebration

Sunday was a joyous day for UConn women's basketball fans as they got to see former Huskies Swin Cash and Renee Montgomery in action again as well as the stars of the 2009-10 national championship team (Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Kalana Greene) in action at a scrimmage at the XL Center. Then Charles, Moore and Greene joined their teammates for a parade in Hartford celebrating the Huskies' seventh national championship.

There are some different emotions going through my head today, however as I attend a different kind of celebration over the next two days - one reflecting the life of Cheshire's Nicholas LaTorraca.

At UConn's season-opening win over Northeastern I heard some rumblings about a sick teenager from Cheshire who was at the game. I did some checking and discovered the story of the then-14 year old Nicholas LaTorraca. The former middle school soccer star was stricken with cancer and when I stumbled across the online journal which his mom so diligently contributed to, I felt compelled to tell his story.

That story ran on Christmas day. Well, this afternoon I will be headed back to Cheshire but this time to attend Nicholas' wake. He died on Wednesday night around 9:30 p.m. at the age of 15. It goes without saying that I was heartbroken when I received word of Nicholas' passing. Although I only met him once, I came away struck by not only his courage in dealing with a battle for his life but also saw glimpses of his fun-loving nature which made him such a popular kid. There have been more than 15,000 visits to his mom's online journal and three separate facebook groups were started in his honor drawing more than 1,500 supporters. I can't even imagine how many people will be turning out for his wake today or funeral tomorrow or how many tears will be shed in his honor. I can't comprehend what his loving parents Henry and Karen are going through right now. Not only did they lose their only child but they had to watch him suffer over these last 14 months. If you take even a minute to look at the online diary, you will get a glimpse of how difficult and painful those last few days, weeks and months were. I am sure the words written by his mom just scratched the surface of the emotions they have gone through and continue to contend with.

Reporters take a vow of objectivity. They are not supposed to get too close to a story but that was simply not possible in this case. Last night I got a little misty eyed when the show Two and a Half Men came on my television because Nicholas told me that was one of his favorite shows. I came away so impressed with the LaTorraca family and the incredible grace and dignity they dealt with the tragic circumstances. Up to the very end I hoped somehow there would be a much different ending to this story. Nicholas said he had dreams of helping others and I hoped there would be a day 10, 15 years down the line when I could document the difference he was making in the lives of others. Unfortunately, that is one story I will never be able to write.

I am going to the wake today not as a journalist but as a human being struck by the same profound sense of loss that so many others are going through.

In the 20 years I have been a newspaper reporter, I have told the stories of countless individual, done so many interviews and met a variety of people but few have touched me as much as the LaTorraca family and the incredibly sad saga they have endured over the last 14 months. When my career comes to an end and I look back at the most memorable experiences and/or stories I have worked on, I find it hard to believe that too many will surpass my mid-December interview with the LaTorracas or the story I wrote about an incredibly brave teenager who inspired so many including myself.


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