Cake and ice cream aren't the kind of food that's likely to lead me to places worse than temptation. On June 5, hours before i turned 28, i gorged on both as i smiled like a fool and joked with my editors that i was happy to be making 18 in America. There's a picture of me moving a spoonful of ice cream to my mouth, the plate from which it was drawn nearly full, as if i am about to concede defeat at the hands of junk beauty. It's now a lost battle.
The cake and ice cream had been a gift from my colleagues at the Kansas City Star, whose local page that day carried the story of a little boy recently run over by a fire truck. He was known to all as Momo, short for Obarimomoya, the gifted son of a family of Nigerian immigrants whom i had met the day before at the school the boy used to attend. Momo, the victim of a fire truck responding to an emergency call, never lived to celebrate his eighth birthday, but his friends at Woodland Elementary School had set in motion plans to remember him, including mounting a plaque that would forever celebrate him as an "excellent student..." His father told me he was not sure he himself would ever get that kind of honor.
The story of Momo was still on my mind as i devoured the cake and ice cream, pondering all the good things that had been said about the life of a boy who might have lived to accomplish great things. A part of me was really doing a Momo celebration, recognizing the important ways in which reporting that story made me a better journalist. Listen, listen, listen. Then, listen up: Kids can be so much fun to listen to.
Momo's sister, initially reticent, was able to open up when she thought she could trust me, and his brother was able to tell me just how much he missed Momo. Listening to nearly 10 people recall their memories of Momo is just about the best reporting experience i've had since i joined the Star, where my broad goal is to talk to as many people as possible in the course of my reporting. It's the only sure way to learn something new -- and have fun along the way. And these people need not include a corrupt mayor or a useless police chief. Back home, at the Daily Monitor of Kampala, a story similar to Momo's is not one that many staff reporters would be keen to tell. As a matter of fact, several human-interest stories that open wide windows into failed public policies often go untold. Sometimes, especially if there's space to spare, they might get briefed.
This story can be rewritten.