A US journalist found himself at the centre of a story when he stumbled upon two missing children after he set out to cover their disappearance.
Centre Daily Times reporter Shawn Annarelli was reporting on two missing brothers, aged seven and nine, who were supposed to board a school bus in Boalsburg on Tuesday morning but never showed up for class.
While covering the story, he set out to find a police officer to chat with, he told Inside Edition.
“I was about 15 yards away from the rest of the media. I was going to talk to a police officer… when I hear two voices and see some rustling leafs,” he said.
Huge misconception about media is we hope for atrocities. The media & I that covered a disappearance this week hoped for a good outcome.— Shawn Annarelli (@Shawn_Annarelli) September 24, 2015
The hardest stories I've written are the ones that don't have a happy ending. Someone dying in a wreck, suicide, homicide etc. It's not easy— Shawn Annarelli (@Shawn_Annarelli) September 24, 2015
Mr Annarelli decided to follow the sounds and movement into the wooded area near the search party.
“I said to myself ‘What if? What if they’re right there?’” he recalled. “I made my way down (a) little path and after I turned one of these tiny little bends, I see two kids crouching down as far as they could and two full backpacks sticking up. I thought ‘Sweet! I got them!’ and then I thought ‘Oh no, I got them.”
Mr Annarelli asked the boys if they were alright and immediately called 911, he said.
“I heard the older boy say ‘They found us.’ I asked ‘Hey, are you guys ok?’ They told me yes and they were kind of disappointed to be found, I think,” said Annarelli, who typically works as a business reporter for the paper.
He guided the children to police officers, resisting his journalist instincts.
"I wanted to report it. But I realized, given the situation, that couldn’t come first this time. I needed to call the police and get the boys back home," he said.
Mr Annarelli said that once the boys - who Police Lt. Keith Robb later told the Associated Press “didn’t want to go to school” - were safe, he contacted his editors.
“I said ‘are you going to update it? I’m the one who found them and I gave them a rundown,” he said, noting his colleagues have been quick to joke about the encounter.
“Everybody gave me a good razz about it. The jokes are still coming. They’ve asked me to go find other things, like ‘Can you go find Jimmy Hoffa now?’”
Mr Annarelli chose to write about the experience for the paper and in a first-person piece, recalled the discovery.
“After some ribbing and some jokes, the discussion… became, ‘How do we cover this now?’” he said. “Either I write a first-hand account or someone in the newsroom interviews me. The decision was made in about a minute. It’s such a unique situation; it calls for a unique way of covering it.”
After writing the well-received article, it was business as usual for Mr Annarelli, who jumped back into covering the community in a removed way.
“But if I ever find another person, I’ll write another story,” he joked.
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