(NNPA)—Over a 43-year career in journalism, I have been blessed with some memorable experiences: I have covered presidential and vice presidential campaigns, I have flown on Air Force One, I have gone to parties at the White House, met Pope John Paul II, spent two weeks in Egypt, visited former slave dungeons in Dakar and Accra and have traveled around the world, including  Rome, Paris, London, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Havana, Vienna and recently Beijing and Shanghai.
Of the thousands of stories I covered since I began my career in 1970—primarily for Sports Illustrated, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago Tribune, Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service—one has affected me more than any other. It was the violent death of 23-year-old Mark Essex on Jan. 7, 1973.
Essex, who was known as the New Orleans Sniper, killed nine innocent people, including five police officers, and wounded 13 others. I was sent to Emporia, Kan. to interview relatives and friends in an effort to learn what triggered Essex’s outburst. What has stayed with me over the years is not the carnage he inflicted—though that’s unforgettable—it’s the events that led up to that point. Essentially, Essex felt that he had been harassed in the Navy, an account partly supported by friends, and he became so embittered that he was ready to die.

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