on assignment

Candlelight Vigil Honors Orlando Nightclub Shooting Victims

In all my years working as a photojournalist, the hardest, most difficult assignments to cover are those involving unwarranted death. The sudden loss of a child. A car accident. A fire. A friend’s suicide.

Like many all across the U.S., I awoke Sunday morning to the sickening news of the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla. It was shocking to hear someone could do such harm to people who mean no harm to anyone. And all I could think about was how my gay friends were feeling vulnerable. How they felt insecure, how angry they were, how scared. What kind of scum would attack a group of people just enjoying a night out on the town? Oh yeah: A piece of shit.

Stop The Hate

A man lights candles for a vigil for the victims of the Orlando, Fla., nightclub massacre on Monday evening June 13, 2016, at Rumors Cabaret in Bellingham, Wash. Over a hundred people turned out to honor those killed in the terrorist attack. Organizer Heidi O'Hana said she she was

A man lights candles for a vigil for the victims of the Orlando, Fla., nightclub massacre on Monday evening June 13, 2016, at Rumors Cabaret in Bellingham, Wash. Over a hundred people turned out to honor those killed in the terrorist attack. (© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald)

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A Celebration of Life: Hannah Dashiell’s Legacy Lives On

This past weekend I covered a bench dedication for Squalicum High School senior Hannah Dashiell for The Bellingham Herald. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Hannah Dashiell:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - A candle, photo of Hannah, and her favorite saying during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday  afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – A candle, photo of Hannah, and her favorite saying during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

Hannah was 17 when she was killed in a car accident on January 5, 2014. She was driving on an icy road when she lost control and slid into oncoming traffic.

Dozens of friends and family gathered to honor the life of Hannah Dashiell. She was an honor roll student, senior class vice president, and participated in a multitude of activities including sports.

Double Hug:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Hannah Dashiell's mother Jeannette Dashiell hugs Alex Powell, left, as Hannah's sister Maddy Dashiell hugs Lindsey Dunning during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash. Powel and Dunning were close friends with Hannah. Dashiell died in a motor vehicle accident in early January of this year. A memorial scholarship has been setup by the Whatcom Community Foundation in her name for high school girls pursuing a career in the medical field.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Hannah Dashiell’s mother Jeannette Dashiell hugs Alex Powell, left, as Hannah’s sister Maddy Dashiell hugs Lindsey Dunning during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash. Powell and Dunning were close friends with Hannah. Dashiell died in a motor vehicle accident in early January of this year. A memorial scholarship has been setup by the Whatcom Community Foundation in her name for high school girls pursuing a career in the medical field.

Her father Dennis, mother Jeannette, sister Maddy, and friends Alex Powell and Lindsey Dunning began the dedication with small speeches. The ceremony lasted only a few minutes with the parents, sister, and grandmother screwing in the plate to t the back of  the bench.

Friends & Family:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Friends and family gather for the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday  afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Friends and family gather for the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

These types of general news assignments can be a bit emotionally taxing. My trick to keep from feeling like an intruder, or in the way, is to remind myself I’m there as a representative of the public.

Proud Father:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Hannah Dashiell's father Dennis listens as friends and family tell stories during the  Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday  afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Hannah Dashiell’s father Dennis listens as friends and family tell stories during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

It also doesn’t hurt to empathize with the family. This is part of their, and her friend’s, healing process.

Proud Mom:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Hannah Dashiell's mother Jeannette listens to Alex Powell during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday  afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Hannah Dashiell’s mother Jeannette listens to Alex Powell during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

Move quietly, move fast, and be mindful of where you are.

Healing Hug:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Hannah Dashiell's aunt Jennifer McKay of Bellingham, left, hugs Hannah's sister Maddy Dashiell, 16, both from Bellingham, during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday  afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.  Hannah Dashiell died in a motor vehicle accident in early January of this year. A memorial scholarship has been setup by the Whatcom Community Foundation for high school girls pursuing a career in the medical field.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Hannah Dashiell’s aunt Jennifer McKay of Bellingham, left, hugs Hannah’s sister Maddy Dashiell, 16, both from Bellingham, during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash. Hannah Dashiell died in a motor vehicle accident in early January of this year. A memorial scholarship has been setup by the Whatcom Community Foundation for high school girls pursuing a career in the medical field.

Personally, these assignments tend to give me more of a purpose than shooting pretty sunsets.

A Spot All Her Own:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald - Plaque installed during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday  afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Hannah’s credo on the plaque installed during the Hanna Dashiell Bench Dedication at Barkley Village on Saturday afternoon June 28, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash.

A scholarship in her honor has been set up through the Whatcom Community Foundation. You can give to the Hannah Dashiell Memorial Fund by visiting the WCF website at whatcomcf.org. You can also donate funds through any People’s Bank locations.

For more photos, visit the gallery on The Bellingham Herald website at Hannah Dashiell Bench Dedication.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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