Wow. Just, Wow.

December 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

By Tracy Dingmann

I would be negligent if I did not point out the excellent story “These Are Not Statistics,” a page one piece by Journal reporter Lloyd Jojola about the death of a 43-year-old homeless woman on an Albuquerque street in early October (subscription required).

Iva Rae Coriz was murdered – shot three times and left near a railroad spur north of Downtown. She was one of 66 people who died while homeless this year in Albuquerque. Her homicide remains unsolved.

Through interviews with the many who knew Coriz, Jojola brings dignity and humanity to the story of a difficult life.

We get a glimpse of the the Santa Fe native’s background and more than a taste of her chaotic years on the street. Coriz had a long rap sheet and a big problem with alcohol. But we also find out that many people knew Coriz and cared for her as a fellow human being who “liked to cook, draw, sew, play with her nieces and nephews, spend time with her family and loved to laugh.”

The story is that very rare thing –  a nuanced portrait of the life of a person that most of society stopped caring about out long ago.

I have noticed Jojola’s fine work as the paper’s obituary writer before. I think any of us would be lucky to have him tell our life story.

Without being heavy handed, though,  Jojola’s story does more than simply chronicle one woman’s life and death. By focusing in on Coriz, Jojola tells us a little bit more about what life is like for all of Albuquerque’s homeless. That statistic – 66 homeless people dying this year – is shocking. But readers often pass right over numbers just like those when they appear in a news story full of other dry stats.

At least 65 other homeless people died on Albuquerque’s streets last year. That’s an outrage. By putting a face on this group of folks – the radiant face of Iva Rae Coriz – Jojola makes us think about all of them.

Kudos to Jojola, and kudos to the Journal for giving his story the plum placement and the space it deserves.

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