We want answers, but peaceful resolution most important

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/20/19

We call it “human nature.”

We want to know.

It’s why we slow down, crane our necks for a better view when we pass a wreck on the highway.

It’s why — one reason, anyway — we read …

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We want answers, but peaceful resolution most important

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Posted

We call it “human nature.”

We want to know.

It’s why we slow down, crane our necks for a better view when we pass a wreck on the highway.

It’s why — one reason, anyway — we read newspapers and watch TV and follow social media.

It’s why whodunits — books, movies and television shows like “Dateline NBC” — are perennial favorites. Was it the spouse? Or the boyfriend? Was it for money? Or was it love?

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

We want answers.

Sometimes we get them; sometimes we don’t.

I’m not immune.

A couple of years ago, I tuned in to a heavily-promoted television show — it may have been “Dateline NBC” or “20/20,” they all follow the same template — revisiting the murky details of the November 29, 1981, death of actress Natalie Wood. I wasn’t a fervent Natalie Wood fan, but her death had been of interest to me because she was in the midst of filming “Brainstorm,” her final film, in my hometown of Durham when she died, under mysterious circumstances, while vacationing on the West Coast during a break in the production. So her untimely death, drowning in the Pacific Ocean at age 43, held “local interest” for me.

It was wishful thinking, I guess, that kept me watching the hyped and bloated broadcast, which offered no new information, no new insights and, most disappointingly, no answers. Comedian Chevy Chase, in his prime as anchor of the news on “Saturday Night Live,” would have no doubt cut through such hype and bloat, as he did on “SNL” in 1975, when he informed viewers that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”

Well, so is Natalie Wood. Yet enough of us, myself included, still cared enough for answers to the cob-webbed mystery to watch the show.

It was answers I was after again (in a professional capacity as a reporter) in the late 90s, when I spent a good chunk of a summer afternoon on the banks of the Haw River, where it flows through Moncure just off of U.S. 1. I’d rushed to the scene after hearing on a police scanner that a pick-up truck had been discovered there, submerged in the river.

Was there a body inside?

Hunting for news, I was among the first to arrive. Law enforcement kept us (eventually there were a handful of curious spectators) back a respectable distance to avoid interfering with the more immediate work the authorities were engaged in extracting the vehicle.

Before long, a helicopter from one of the local television stations was hovering overhead. A van with a reported and a camera operator arrived a few minutes later.

We wanted answers.

After a couple of hours of patient waiting, I watched from the sidelines with a mixture of anticipation and dread as the vehicle was brought to the surface, river water gushing from its water-logged cab. I didn’t want to see a dead body, but I was half-thinking I would as the other half realized that without a body, or some equally unusual cargo, I’d probably wasted a couple of hours.

In the end, it was just a truck filled with water. No doubt there was some back story about how and why the pick-up came to be in the Haw River — probably stolen and ditched — but with no body or a bagful of loot inside the saturated truck, it really wasn’t a story at all.

Nowadays, we’re accustomed to finding answers quickly. Does it rain on Jupiter? How many calories are in a banana? Is Walmart open around the clock? Google knows, and it only takes as long as it takes our fingers to type a question to have an answer.

But real life is sometimes messy and the answers we seek don’t always come in real-time as readily as they do when we ask Siri.

Last week’s hostage crisis at the State Employees’ Credit Union in Pittsboro had many of us in our community seeking immediate answers.

What was happening? Who was involved? Why? My phone was lighting up, though I had precious little information to pass along.

Unlike waiting beside a river for an abandoned truck to be extricated, there were lives potentially at stake last Thursday during those tense moments in Pittsboro. Shots were fired. People were imperiled. Our desire to know more about what was happening at the SECU as it was unfolding was understandable. A news helicopter hovered over the scene, too.

Soon, we’ll have answers, if we don’t already, to satisfy the human nature to know what went down in Pittsboro last week, and why.

But one question, and the most important — was anybody hurt? — was answered quickly and most satisfyingly: No.

For the peaceful resolution of a tense situation, we must thank our local law enforcement professionals who calmly and quickly resolved a crisis that could have ended much differently. They did their jobs — protecting us and serving — extremely well.

There’s no question about that.

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