The grim breaking news caused us to start over.
“Suspect in store owner’s murder found dead” stood out in thick black font across the top of the Mirror’s May 3 front page, replacing another less timely news story.
The ever-shifting nature of the news regularly causes our staff to hustle, put together a story and make these last-minute changes.
On this particular Thursday morning, the familiar deadline dance left us disheartened when the details of the story emerged: A teen’s body washed ashore in northeast Tacoma on April 29. He was murdered by a single gunshot wound to his head.
We learned the slain teen was a suspect in the murder of 79-year-old Soon Ja Nam, who was killed during a robbery at her Puyallup grocery store on April 27. A second Federal Way teen suspect was arrested on May 1.
It was evident with bouquets of flowers that piled up in front of the Handy Corner Store in the days that followed that Nam was well loved by the community.
More questions than answers swirled in our newsroom and community following the news: How could two teenagers allegedly murder her? What went wrong with their lives that caused them to allegedly do this? Did the Federal Way community fail in providing more opportunities for its at-risk youth? Who murdered the teen suspect and why?
After we sent our May 3 paper off to press, I left the newsroom with reporter Olivia Sullivan to go to an interview and start work on stories for the next week’s print edition. With an overcast of dispiritedness still looming, we pulled up in front of the quaint home.
“It’ll be difficult to shake this feeling and get into the right mindset for this interview,” I said.
Sometimes all it takes is a door to open.
When we went inside the house, Cindy Lu Vaughn and her husband, Pat, immediately embraced us as their wood stove crackled.
“I’m grandma Cindy,” she said, the intensity of the morning suddenly dissipating.
We published Cindy Lu’s story on the front cover of our following edition that detailed her love for the Federal Way community and her neighbors she has cared for over the years. She has gifted everything from shoes to screwdrivers through a Facebook community called Federal Way Ladies Sharing Cafe. Cindy Lu has also brought in strangers from the cold, offering them a warm cup of coffee or soup.
“That’s just who we are,” Cindy Lu told the Mirror.
Residents, who rallied to get the couple a new roof, referred to Cindy Lu and Pat as the “neighborhood grandparents.”
Morgan Roth, executive assistant of Guardian Roofing that provided the Vaughns with a new roof, summed up Cindy Lu best when she said: “Cindy particularly has a heart of gold … she kind of embodies basic humanity.”
This is why we selected Cindy Lu as the Mirror’s Citizen of the Month for May.
As a community newspaper, it is our duty to report on the important news in Federal Way — the good and the bad.
Sometimes the headlines are gloomy, ever-present ominous clouds darkening over the community. It certainly seemed this way this month, as murder, shootings and child luring dominated our front page coverage.
But we also seek to cover the good: Splinters of humanity that shine through and warm our spirits. This includes volunteers who clean up parks, inspiring athletes who finish the race through adversity, scholars who lead in the classroom and people like Cindy Lu — who lift up the community and remind us that good still exists.