An Uber-owned Ford Fusion drives itself along North Shore Drive in Pittsburgh. Uber began testing self-driving cars in the city weeks ago but confirmed the tests for the first time on Wednesday, May 18, 2016.

Aupperlee: First ride in an Uber self-driving car in Pittsburgh

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Tribune-Review reporter Aaron Aupperlee broke the news that Uber was testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. Here’s how he got the story and became one of the first people to catch a ride from an Uber self-driving car.

Uber has been uber secretive about its progress on self-driving cars at the Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh.
That changed Wednesday.
A few weeks ago, I wondered what Uber’s cars, outfitted with cameras, sensors and a whirling laser on top, were doing in Pittsburgh, and more importantly, why?
Driving in Pittsburgh can be a nightmare: narrow and hilly streets, parking chairs, the Pittsburgh left, merging on the Fort Duquesne Bridge, potholes and us, the drivers, who don’t have the best reputation.
So why decide to test self-driving technology here?
That’s what I planned to ask Bares on Wednesday. He told me he had a bit of news to share as well.
We sat on living room furniture in the middle of a warehouse in the Strip District. It was the former Fudgie Wudgie factory, but the smell of chocolate had faded.
Bares talked about how a drive to use robotics to make life safer brought him to Uber. He called Pittsburgh the ultimate test track. If a self-driving car can survive here, it can survive almost anywhere.
Then I asked him about the cars seen driving around town.
“You wanna go take a ride in one?” Bares asked.
We rode in the Ford Fusion hybrid for about four miles. The car drove itself a half-mile across the 31st Street Bridge. It shifted in and out of self-driving mode, beeping loudly each time, as it drove up and down River Avenue and encountered runners, cyclists, tree limbs and a goose.
We made another successful self-driving pass over the bridge and went back into manual mode to navigate the Strip District.
It drove the speed limit – 25 mph, across the bridge, which felt super slow because no one ever drives the speed limit across the bridge. The car began slowing nearly as soon as the traffic light at River Avenue came into its and our view. It negotiated turns and curves smoothly.
Bares kept his eyes, and mine too, glued to a computer on the co-pilot’s lap. The screen showed what the car’s sensors were seeing, a line drawing of the world around us. It showed other vehicles or people walking on the sidewalk. It showed buildings and traffic signs. It showed the goose, a yellow blob in the road, and identified it as something that shouldn’t be there.
Bares beamed with near fatherly pride when the car succeeded but was quick to acknowledge the challenges ahead.
When we returned to the Advanced Technology Center, Bares hopped out and had to run. I stopped him. Wasn’t there news he had to share?
That was it, he said, pointing to the car.
It was the first time Uber had shown off its self-driving technology to the media and the first time it confirmed it was testing cars in Pittsburgh. He joked that he left all that out until the end so I wouldn’t be scared to ride.
Bares left, hitching a ride to his next meeting in the self-driving Fusion, and I had my story.

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Trib photographer keeps an eye on the bat

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PTR-Bucs02-030616

By Christopher Horner

When I saw the Pirates’ Danny Ortiz lose his bat on a swing Saturday, my immediate thought was to track its path into the crowd at Champion Stadium. Fans scattering from a thrown bat sometimes makes for an interesting image.

Following the bat with one eye, I focused with the other eye in the camera as the crowd reaction became apparent to where the bat was headed. I shot a burst of frames and watched the bat spin into the stands along the first base line. Shooting from the third base line next to the Pirates dugout gave me a clear view of the first-base stands as fans ducked away and the bat sailed into the seats amid mostly Braves fans.

After a brief bit of concern rattled through the stadium, the game resumed and I went back to watching the action.

PTR-Bat5-030816It was at the end of the half-inning when I checked the digital images I had shot when I saw images of the bat being deflected by an adult fan in front of a boy who  sat next to him. After marking the image in my camera for later reference, I moved on and shot the rest of the game.

It wasn’t until later, when I opened the file on my computer, that I noticed how close the bat had actually come to hitting the boy in the face.

With the ongoing concern of fan safety during games, I recognized that this was a photo that could reinforce those safety issues. When I tweeted the photo I had no idea of the response it would get. It ended up trending on Facebook, Yahoo and other social media sites.

But in the end, I hope it helps fans to recognize the need to be alert at all times when sitting in seats that are close to the field of play.

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Trib reporter Ben Schmitt goes into the cryosauna.

Schmitt: Enduring a deep freeze for the hottest trend

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Winter has nothing on health reporter Ben Schmitt. To tell a story on the latest trend of cryotherapy, he went into the deep, deep freeze.

I punked out, there’s no other way to put it.

Trib reporter Ben Schmitt goes into the cryosauna.

Trib reporter Ben Schmitt goes into the cryosauna.

Tasked with writing a story for the Trib’s new HealthNow page, I pounced on the hot, er cold, topic of whole-body cryotherapy. A new facility, Cloud Cryotherapy, opened in November in the Strip District, so I called up the owner and set up an interview appointment.

Everything went well, until the owner offered me the opportunity to step into his cryosauna. For those unfamiliar with it, cryotherapy calls for people to stand in large cylindrical tubes for 2-3 minutes while temperatures drop to minus-200 degrees with the help of liquid nitrogen.

Proponents say it stimulates the body’s natural healing system and can help alleviate everything from arthritis and inflammation to anxiety and depression.

Back to the owner’s offer. When he gave me the chance to experience the cryosauna, I politely declined and headed back to the office.

After all, why would I get nearly naked and expose myself to merciless, sub-zero temperatures?

Later, I relayed the owner’s icy offer to a couple of colleagues, Aaron Aupperlee and Wes Venteicher. They couldn’t contain their disappointment. I’m a reporter, writing about cryotherapy, and I turned down the opportunity to perfectly acquaint myself with my subject matter? Shame!

I went home, pondered their words and asked my wife, Donna, for her opinion.  “Should have tried it,” she said.

I knew they were right. So, I emailed the owner asking if his offer still stood.

The next morning I returned to the chill chamber. I was ushered into a changing room where I stripped down and put on the supplied — and required — two pairs of mittens and socks.

Talk about Immersion Journalism.

Tom Rodgers, owner of Cloud Cryotherapy in the Strip District, stands by a nitrogen tank. Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media

Tom Rodgers, owner of Cloud Cryotherapy in the Strip District, stands by a nitrogen tank. Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media

I have swum in the Maine surf of the Atlantic Ocean many times. On the days when the water’s just too cold — when my legs go numb upon entering the sea… that’s how I describe it: Freaking Frigid. My skin tingled and my lungs felt heavy.

I survived for 2.5 minutes, thanked the owner and victoriously headed to work.

Did it help? Hard to say. I definitely felt a sense of euphoria and invigoration but my achy right knee felt about the same.

To be fair, cryotherapy backers say multiple sessions are the only way to get healing results. I was one and done.

Still, I’m glad I gave the liquid nitrogen a whirl.

 

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A glass railing overlooking the Field of Honor at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitors Center. By Sean Stipp.

Pickels: Years of Flight 93 reporting

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Tribune-Review reporter Mary Pickels has been visiting a Somerset County field for 14 years, telling the heart-breaking stories of 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93 who died there on Sept. 11, 2001. Through somber memorial services year after year and other meetings, Pickels has witnessed the evolution of a memorial fitting for those who sacrificed their lives to take down the airplane.

They waited 14 years.

Soon after United Flight 93 plummeted into a lonely, windswept field in Somerset County, family members of the 40 passengers and crew who perished began arriving at the site.

In short order, visitors from around the country began making pilgrimages to Stonycreek Township, clogging the few streets of the nearest town, tiny Shanksville.

A glass railing overlooking the Field of Honor at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitors Center. By Sean Stipp.

A glass railing overlooking the Field of Honor at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitors Center. By Sean Stipp.

Many area first responders and local residents assumed the voluntary role of ambassador at a temporary memorial. Protective of their community and of the families, they shared with thousands the story of what Americans learned was heroism in the sky.

I remember those early days, visitors standing in rain or snow, staring out at an unmarked gravesite.

Within weeks, Congress passed and President George Bush signed an act to create the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Family members joined a federal advisory commission, whose meetings I attended for years.

I watched strangers become friends, overcoming roadblocks and setbacks until they achieved their shared goal.

Many still return each Sept. 11, including Calvin Wilson, brother-in-law of First Officer LeRoy Homer.

It can be, he said, like attending the same funeral, year after year.

Inside the newly dedicated Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center Complex, family members moved among the displays.

Some stood below a wall of their loved ones’ portraits, tears mingling with proud smiles.

Wall of portraits at Flight 93 visitors center. By Mary Pickels.

Wall of portraits at Flight 93 visitors center. By Mary Pickels.

Part of my job is to probe, to pry, to ask sometimes intrusive questions.

One exhibit I passed on was listening to the recorded messages, final farewells some passengers left behind on answering machines.

Families of Flight 93 President Gordon Felt referred to the last calls as “echoes of the past. That’s overwhelming.”

Eavesdropping on that level of intimacy was, for me, overwhelming.

I talked with family members pleased to see loved ones’ personal items in the glass display cases. Others expressed relief that a “permanent” center now exists for generations yet unborn.

Felt admitted that he missed the temporary memorial, a raw outpouring of outrage, mourning, respect and gratitude.

Standing outside the new center, he smiled.

“But I love this,” he said.

 

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Bumsted: Seeing double in the AG’s office

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Statehouse correspondent Brad Bumsted has been investigating Attorney General Kathleen Kane long before a judge recently held her for trial on a felony and seven misdemeanors. But even Bumsted had to do a double-take to make sure he was seeing the right thing when she turned up at court.

Did Kane use her identical twin as a decoy?

Reporters and photographers had been duped at Kane’s recent preliminary hearing in Norristown on criminal charges linked to leaking grand jury testimony, right? That’s the way the story took off through the blogosphere, leading to a  New York Post piece with a headline saying, “Foxy Attorney General Tricks Media With Twin Sister.”

Kane

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, in the red dress, walks into a preliminary hearing in Norristown by following a few steps behind her twin sister, Ellen Granahan.

First off the elevator in the Montgomery County Courthouse was Ellen Granahan, the attorney general’s twin sister, wearing a black jacket over a white dress. There were two men walking in front. It’s unclear whether they were agents of the attorney general or local law enforcement officers. Within a few seconds, Kane got off the elevator, maybe 30 yards behind her sister, wearing a red dress. Kane’s current contingent of five bodyguards accompanied her.

Kane needs the extra security because she’s disrupted drug operations of Mexican cartels and the cartels may be after her, Kane’s spokesman says.

Photographers and TV cameras zoomed in on Ellen, the first twin to walk the media gauntlet. But wait, why would Kathleen Kane risk having her sister out front as a decoy if the cartels are really after her? She wouldn’t put her twin in harm’s way.

And to what end? The attorney general was seated at the defense table in minutes.

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Aupperlee: Ten years after Katrina

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Reporter Aaron Aupperlee and photographer Justin Merriman visited New Orleans recently to report on recovery efforts 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Here’s what they found:

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Aaron Aupperlee interviews Keion Smith inside her home in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Smith and her son finally moved home 10 years after the storm.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Aaron Aupperlee interviews Keion Smith inside her home in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Smith and her son finally moved home 10 years after the storm. (Photo by Justin Merriman)

Finding stories in New Orleans was easy.

Everyone had one, and everyone seemed eager to share.

Photographer Justin Merriman and I went to New Orleans a week before the city marked the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“Ten years seems like yesterday,” said Simone, a dancer at Temptations, a gentlemen’s club on Bourbon Street. “Thank god ya’ll here because most people forgot.”

It’s been 10 years since the storm, and there are still people waiting to return to their damaged homes. Harold Bailey, 27, a bridge operator who raises and lowers the city’s spans for boat traffic, finally moved back to his New Orleans East home last year. We met him while he repaired a home in the Ninth Ward.

“I just want to make sure you get a full picture of what’s going on in New Orleans,” Bailey said as we stood under the blazing afternoon sun for an hour talking about the destruction from the storm and the herculean task of rebuilding.

He expressed hope and frustration in the same sentence. He broke down in tears when he remembered seeing water flooding the nearby Circle food store, where people in his community shopped for everything.

“That’s when I knew my city was completely flooded,” Bailey said. “That was the moment when I said, ‘Hey, there’s no going home now.’”

His wife, Capria, brought us cold bottles of water while we looked across his street at vacant lots and a boarded-up house that Harold keeps an eye on for a neighbor who is spending his retirement fund to fix. She brought us peach popsicles as we walked through the first story of their home, still unfinished.

“This is home, and it feels great just to be back home,” Harold said. “It’s been a long process. It’s been a long journey.”

Cam Coleman was 12 when the storm hit. He and his family evacuated their Gentilly neighborhood home before Katrina hit. Cam only grabbed a few days worth of clothes. Later he saw a shot of his neighborhood on television and spotted just his roof peeking through the floodwaters.

The image stuck with him. When he graduated from Louisiana State University last spring, he joined AmeriCorps and asked to work in New Orleans.

“I had to help my city first,” he said outside a home he was repairing.

Kagnee, a waitress at Pier 424 Seafood Market on Bourbon Street, said she doesn’t like to think about Hurricane Katrina. She evacuated before the storm but still gets sick remembering the suffering of those trapped in the Superdome or the Convention Center. Her children weren’t weren’t born and she’s not sure how much they understand about the storm’s impact.

When Justin asked The Smoking Time Jazz Club, who had just finished a blistering set at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street, if he could use their music in a video he was making about New Orleans 10 years after Katrina, they immediately agreed – as long as Justin bought their CDs.

Inside an art gallery on Royal Street specializing in French impressionists and post-impressionists, Jill quickly realized we wouldn’t be buying anything on the walls. Maybe my flip-flops gave it away.

“Please don’t tell a New Orleans cliché,” she said.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Photographer Justin Merriman photographs Robert Green, who lost his mother and granddaughter in Hurricane Katrina.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Photographer Justin Merriman photographs Robert Green, who lost his mother and granddaughter in Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Aaron Aupperlee)

The story of the city’s rebirth is complex, she said. There are growing pains. Not everything is as sweet as the beignets buried in powdered sugar at Café Du Monde.

She offered Detroit, a city devastated by the decline in the auto industry, as an example. I offered Pittsburgh as an example.

As we left the gallery, I said I’d give her a call when I was ready to invest in art.

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Transportation reporter Melissa Daniels tests out one of the city's Healthy Ride bikes.

Daniels: Changing lanes takes patience

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Transportation reporter Melissa Daniels gains a new perspective on the conflicts among drivers and bicycle riders by taking to the streets.

Pavement looks different up close.

The painted lines pop on the corrugated surface of the asphalt. Intersections seem larger. The view of the street is different on a bike, which I learned recently while taking Bike Pittsburgh’s Confident City Cycling Class.

In six months as the Trib’s transportation reporter, no issue has merited more calls emails and tweets from readers than the implementation of bike lanes and the advent of cycling in the streets. Some say cyclists have no business being on the streets, while others report riders zooming through red lights. Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration plans to implement more bike lanes – starting in Oakland – with the idea of making city streets safer for all modes of transportation. The concept is divisive, especially when drivers heading down Penn Avenue see the former two-lane street halved by a bike lane with few bikes (despite an Envision Downtown census showing an average of 1,000 riders per day in July).

I’ve biked on trails since moving to Pittsburgh, and I’ve loved working it into my barely-there exercise routine. But I had never tried riding in a street before, so I signed up for Bike Pittsburgh’s class as an opportunity to learn the basics while riding in a group. The instructors, Karen and Dan, met with about 10 students in Lawrenceville on a sunny, warm Saturday. We went over the fundamentals, like how to ensure your bike and helmet are safe, and pedaled to a nearby parking lot to practice road skills.

I took the course on a Healthy Ride bike, which felt safe and secure with fat tires and brand new brakes. I tested one out this May, but I hadn’t taken one out for myself. The weight of the bike took me a little while to get used to, but once I found my center of gravity, I could navigate an obstacle course with tennis balls set up to mimic tight city turns.

Using a bike to commute through the city has appeared dangerous to me. More than once, I have slowly moved behind and around cyclists in the East End. They seem so close to the cars, so vulnerable and exposed next to the two-ton metal machines navigating around them.

Those machines can hurt.

Five years ago — Sept. 3, 2010, a little after 6 p.m. – I exited a nail salon on Main Street in the picturesque Finger Lakes town of Canandaigua, N.Y. I headed to City Hall to cover a council meeting. I paused at the mid-block crosswalk in front of two southbound lanes of traffic. The driver closest to me yielded, and waved me on. I stepped into the street. But the driver in the next lane didn’t see me.

The Jeep Cherokee hit my left hip, and sent me flying through the air. I still remember the resounding crack when my head hit the road. I still remember coming to, crouched like an animal, as the world slowly came back into focus.

The bruises and concussion eventually faded, but that sound of my skull hitting the pavement still hasn’t.

I tried not to think about that on Saturday when I cruised down Butler Street with Karen and two other classmates. Within the first five minutes, two drivers shouted obscenities at us. I felt like my presence offended them. But I remembered the rules of the road – that by law, cyclists are allowed to travel in the lanes, and drivers must obey the speed limit. I remembered the skills from the class – to signal before turns, to keep your feet on “level pedals” for quick stopping and starting, and to keep your eyes on the road ahead.

Later, when we pulled off to let traffic pass, a driver honked and gave a friendly wave.

Whether it’s a novice like me on a bike, the drivers in their cars, or the pedestrians on the sidewalk, we’re all just trying to get somewhere. I do not think the frustration of drivers in this city will vanish overnight, but I do think all of us in today’s society are equipped to deal with change – even when we don’t like it, or when it scares us. If we practice our technical skills – and the human ones, like patience and awareness – we can arrive safely.

Transportation reporter Melissa Daniels tests out one of the city's Healthy Ride bikes.

Transportation reporter Melissa Daniels tests out one of the city’s Healthy Ride bikes.

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Rittmeyer: When fiction becomes fact

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When producers of the Cinemax show “Banshee” brought filming to Western Pennsylvania this summer, the Trib’s Brian Rittmeyer found himself captivated both by the on-screen story line and the way it played out in real life.

Sometimes stories fall into your lap.

That’s what happened with me and “Banshee,” the Cinemax show that was filming around the Pittsburgh area this summer, most notably in Vandergrift.

I used to be in the Vandergrift area on a regular basis when I reported on the Kiski Area, Leechburg Area and Apollo-Ridge communities. But I don’t get down that way as much since being reassigned to Allegheny Valley and Deer Lakes.

Then Irene Kepple called. I had written about her in 2012, when she and her husband, Larry, bought an old house in Gilpin and moved it to their property. She wanted me to look at a scrapbook of old flood photos, so I went to see it at her Vandergrift antique shop.

The scrapbook turned out to be nothing special. While there, she mentioned that a nearby building was being worked on for a TV show called “Banshee.” I had never heard of it; sounded like some kind of horror reality show.

I walked over to take a look, and my journey to Banshee began.

I wrote the first couple stories without seeing the show. I relied on how public relations for HBO, which owns Cinemax, described it: “Banshee stars Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, Pa., where he continues his criminal pursuits while enforcing his own code of justice.” Whatever that means.

After three short seasons, the show came to Pennsylvania from North Carolina, in pursuit of tax incentives no longer offered down south.

At home one Sunday, I noticed Comcast had opened up its On Demand service, and I had access to Cinemax.  I watched the first season of Banshee – all 10 episodes – and got hooked. I bought the second season on Blu-ray discs.

A set visit in July to see the production and meet some of the cast and crew was definitely outside the norm. I took off my fan hat and kept my reporter hat firmly in place. But it was a treat to meet and talk with Starr and cast members Ivana Milicevic, Hoon Lee and Matt Servitto.

Servitto, our guide for the day, was very down to earth. I’ll never forget walking around Vandergrift with Servitto, him holding two milkshakes from Sweetlane – the one he ordered, and the one he was tempted to get after seeing it.

I read Starr is a New Zealand native, but I wasn’t expecting the accent because there’s no trace of it on the show. I saw Banshee creator Jonathan Tropper direct a scene with Starr and Eliza Dushku along Grant Avenue. After a few takes, Dushku asked for guidance on how her character should be reacting. He gave it, and she promptly blew the next take when she busted up laughing.

When I went to see Milicevic film an action scene, she said, “Welcome to Banshee. Are you afraid?” When I said no, she said, “You should be!”

Over lunch with Lee at the VFW hall, he told me how he had gotten into Pittsburgh’s coffee scene. Knowing how the third season ended, it was good to see him.

I tried not to be too much of a “Fanshee,” as Banshee fans are called. I didn’t ask for any autographs – but my Blu-ray sets were in the car, just in case.

I got a friend hooked on the show, and she sent me a Banshee poster for my birthday. The day I got a frame and hung it up was the same day we learned Banshee’s fourth season filmed here would be its last.

The filming is done, and now we wait for the eight new episodes to air early next year and finish the story that I and, I’m sure, many others only recently discovered.

Ivana Milicevic portrays jewel thief Carrie Hopewell, who lives in the fictional Banshee, Pa., under an assumed identity. The series filmed in the Kiski Valley this year.

Ivana Milicevic portrays jewel thief Carrie Hopewell, who lives in the fictional Banshee, Pa., under an assumed identity. The series filmed in the Kiski Valley this year.

 

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Reporter  Mary Pickels (left), Gunner and Patricia Glasser, 84, of Hempfield. (By Evan Sanders)

Pickels: We have to bear witness

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Tribune-Review general assignment reporter Mary Pickels sometimes finds herself tasked with encapsulating a moving experience into a news story all on deadline. Earlier this summer, she watched as an 84-year-old woman’s wish to ride a horse again was granted.

One aspect of a journalist’s job is simply playing witness.

We often stand in the background, furiously scribbling. We try not to miss anything, and hope to capture what sometimes can be elusive special moments.

I’ve been a witness/scribe to many such moments over the years: newly-minted Americans waving tiny flags after taking their oath of citizenship; returning service men and women lifting loved ones off their feet in bear hugs.

Reporter  Mary Pickels (left), Gunner and Patricia Glasser, 84, of Hempfield. (By Evan Sanders)

Reporter Mary Pickels (left), Gunner and Patricia Glasser, 84, of Hempfield. (By Evan Sanders)

Some moments are quieter, but nonetheless profound.

Residents of a senior community, missing their home gardens, proudly sowing and tending to vegetable and flower plots together.

Three little girls, formerly in foster care, gaining a family in the arms of a couple eager to adopt.

I recently had another special, but quiet, moment, when I was invited to watch Patricia Glasser, who grew up with and later owned horses, saddle up again.

It had been a few years since Glasser, 84, had been astride a horse. Years ago she left her North Huntingdon farm and moved into an assisted-living facility.

Patricia Glasser, 84, of Hempfield thanks Gunner at the Bogley Performance Horses stables in Wyano for helping to fulfill her wish to ride a horse one last time on  June 17, 2015. (By Alexandria Polanosky)

Patricia Glasser, 84, of Hempfield thanks Gunner at the Bogley Performance Horses stables in Wyano for helping to fulfill her wish to ride a horse one last time on June 17, 2015. (By Alexandria Polanosky)

Her recent ride was a wish fulfillment, granted by the Twilight Wish Foundation.

She greeted Gunner, the mellow gelding she rode, as if the two were old friends. She brushed him and spoke softly to him, and later thanked him for her ride.

In fact, she thanked everyone involved, from the owner of the stables where she rode to her lunch companions to the foundation making her wish come true.

“That was great. It makes me feel younger,” she said after coming to a gentle stop.

She and Gunner were a couple of class acts.

It was my pleasure to bear witness.

 

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Tribune-Review chief photographer Barry Reeger after receiving an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Reeger: Right place, right time

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As chief photographer at the Tribune-Review in Greensburg, photojournalist Barry Reeger spends a lot of time behind the scenes managing the department. But recently, he was able to capture two split-second moments that left him riding a journalistic high.

Having worked as a photojournalist for 25 years, I have come to learn that a huge part of this profession is being in the right place at the right time.

Being in the right place at the right time on Penn State’s football field last fall allowed me to capture a sports moment that later caused me to be in the right place at the right time in Washington, D.C., where I was able to capture a historic moment in our nation’s history.

Hours after the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage was handed down on June 26, I was in our nation’s capital to attend an awards banquet at The National Press Club.

A Penn State football player reaches for the goal line. Barry Reeger won a national award for this image.

A Penn State football player reaches for the goal line. Barry Reeger won a national award for this image.

I was fortunate to win a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for a sports photograph that I took last football season. The photo shows Penn State running back Akeel Lynch stretching for the goal line during a game against Temple. The photo was taken at 1/1000 of a second. Luckily, I was in the right place at the right time.

My wife and I left our home in Greensburg just about the time that the historic decision on marriage was handed down. We learned about it through news sites while we made our way to Washington that day. The journalist in me realized the unique opportunity I had to be in D.C. that day.

Tribune-Review chief photographer Barry Reeger after receiving an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Tribune-Review chief photographer Barry Reeger after receiving an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Unfortunately, we arrived in town with just enough time to get ready to attend the banquet, and I wasn’t able to go to the Supreme Court to capture any of the historic atmosphere. It left me a little disappointed.

However, fate intervened when the banquet ended. As we returned to our hotel around midnight, I discovered that the White House was lit up like a rainbow to celebrate the decision.

I headed over to the White House to see the activity. Hundreds of people were still celebrating there, taking selfies and talking about the landmark decision. I was surprised at how many people were still outside of the White House in the early hours of the next morning. I took a photograph as another camera’s flash fired, illuminating a single happy reveler waving a rainbow flag in front of the White House as it was soaked in a blanket of colors. The photo was taken at 1/60 of a second.

A crowd continues to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage. Barry Reeger took this photo at 1 a.m. in front of the White House.

A crowd continues to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. Barry Reeger took this photo at 1 a.m. in front of the White House.

I returned to my hotel, edited and captioned the image that I recorded at 1 a.m. and sent it to my newsroom where the next morning it was the lead image for the story about the landmark decision on the Trib’s website.

One moment in time – captured at a fraction of a second last year – led me to the opportunity to show our readers part of a significant story in our nation’s history this year. Both were just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

 

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