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A Heartfelt Thank You To Brian McMillan and Flagler County

| February 14, 2014

On the beat: Brian McMillan, right, with Will Raulerson of the  Florida Forestry Service, at the Seminole Woods Boulevard fire earlier this week. (c FlaglerLive)

On the beat: Brian McMillan, right, with Will Raulerson of the Florida Forestry Service, at the Seminole Woods Boulevard fire earlier this week. (c FlaglerLive)

Let me give you a good illustration of the difference between me and Brian McMillan, by which I mean the difference between my take-no-prisoner, cut-throat pretensions and competitive fanaticism, as opposed to Brian’s innate decency and nobility, his ability to get the job done as the editor of the Palm Coast Observer without turning every story into an F-3 tornado of catastrophes and outrage.

pierre tristam flaglerlive editor's blogSo here I was Wednesday morning on Amtrak’s Silver Bullet train, which was really more bb pellet than bullet considering the crawl and delays of the past 18 hours. We’d been on it since the night before, on the way to a trio of appointments with cutters and radiation gurus in New York to see how we might proceed with that little cancer of mine. My wife Cheryl found out through Facebook that some sort of emergency was happening on Belle Terre Parkway. But that’s all she could gather from the cryptic post.

Naturally I couldn’t resist. I had to get the story. We were about an hour from diving under the Hudson river and into Manhattan, where I’d lose all signal for a while, so I started calling and emailing every relevant source I knew, and luckily managed to get pictures and a narrative of the terrible events directly from the FHP investigator at the scene. I’ve always found first responders to be as heroic in what they do at such scenes as with the professionalism and courtesy they keep extending me, despite the fact that reporters at accident scenes are like Ebola virus spills in an operating room.

I get the story up about five minutes before we hit the tunnel, and of course the first thing I do after that is dial up the Palm Coast Observer to see if I beat them to it so I could high-five myself from 1,000 miles away.

And what do I see?

A column by Brian McMillan entitled “Brother from another website,” encouraging me to “keep fighting.” Here I was pretending to be the Associated Press racing UPI as if I was covering JFK’s assassination, and here was Brian, with his Raymond Carver style and Albert Schweitzer compassion, telling readers about my coming struggles, lavishing more kind words on what I do and who I am than I’ve ever seen in print or deserved. He was showing himself once again to be the moral conscience that’s always kept the Observer the more felicitous work of a literary journalist than the marketing-driven vehicle it might otherwise be without him.

Brian of course is a poet and a writer first, as opposed to the hack typist I am on my best days. What he was showing in that column is no different than what he does generously every week, searching out any glow to celebrate (as he did Cheryl and the Flagler Youth Orchestra a year ago). Where some of us plunder for news, he tills for stories. As I read his column I was mortified and not prepared right at that moment to go from reptilian reporter to a weepy character in a Nora Ephron play. But that’s what Brian managed to do to me, from his thousand miles away.

In fairness to our shared profession I was also grateful to see at the end of Brian’s column that he noted how we’d seen each other at the recent fire on Seminole Woods but hadn’t had time to do more than wave hello, as we both were in reporter mode, rushing to beat each other. So you see, it’s in the blood. Mine just happens to be more diseased than his.

So diseased that while I was hoping to take a break from my WNZF commentary this morning (where this piece first aired), I couldn’t let Brian have the last word, especially since I’d yet to respond to his very moving gesture, or even respond to countless others who have, in comments at FlaglerLive, in emails and in many other ways, rallied around me so much more than I had a right to expect. I particularly appreciated my most ardent critics’ immediate support and prayers (yes, even their prayers)–and their truly gratifying wishes that I get cured so they can always have me to scream at–proving that in the United States we know when and how to let our shared humanity give politics a rest. This is the meaning of community. There’s nothing abstract or cliche about it, though there is something uniquely American about it.

So Brian, thank you. I would never wish to respond in kind because God forbid you’d have any illness that would make such a response necessary. We can’t have both FlaglerLive and the Observer on the disabled list (not that either would be, given our staffs of hundreds). But it’s great to know that at heart Flagler County’s media, the media that matter anyway–I especially include our friends at WNZF–reflect the caring and concerns of this community with a voice we can all agree on, no matter our differences. Thank you Brian for being one hell of a voice in that mix.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

11 Responses for “A Heartfelt Thank You To Brian McMillan and Flagler County”

  1. Jack Howell says:

    Nicely stated! You both are great at what you do. God bless.

  2. Bob Cuff says:

    I’m sure some will see this as log rolling in the fourth estate, but I can’t help thinking that Flagler County is better (or, at least, better informed) for having both you guys on the beat. Keep it up…for a long time.

  3. Will says:

    Agree 100% with Col. Howell and Atty. Cuff. All the best for quick complete recovery Pierre.

  4. Kendall says:

    I find each news source to be the yin to the other’s yang. It’s about time Flagler County matters to the media and we are so lucky to have two wonderful journalists invested in keeping us apprised of news here.

  5. PCresident says:


    I know I am one of your strongest critics when it comes to the writings on this news site, but I actually enjoy reading your articles (maybe to ensure my editing skills are kept fresh). Not that my profession is that of a professional editor; it is not and far from it.

    I hope that everything works out and you can make a speedy recovery! We need you to hold people accountable for whatever it is that they do, and you’re the F-5 tornado (not the F-3 that you described above). I know in these times we tend to not listen to well to our significant others, but they do know best! They have a more objective view versus our subjective. Godspeed Pierre, and hang in there! Stop censoring my comments (that’s satire)!

  6. Geezer says:

    “Hack typist”
    I don’t think so.

  7. Becky says:

    While they pat each other on the back, they “slither” to the next accident and take their photos. All hail the ambulance chasers .

  8. LHoffman says:

    Best wishes on a speedy recovery.

  9. Jamie Woyton says:

    Decency and class! You and your family are in our prayers.

  10. Perry Mitrano says:

    This is why I read he PCO and Flagler Live they live the industry they work in and take their work to heart. Sometimes you can agree and thensometimes not agree with the both of them but at the end of the day you get to read the facts as they both get them. Nice work fellas!

    Get well soon Pierre!

  11. Liana G says:

    Pierre, everyone is capable of both characteristics, it’s just a matter of wanting to. And some can afford to more than others. Given Florida’s massive Medicare population, I’m surprised you had to travel all the way to NYC for treatment.

    I hope you took time to appreciate the sometimes scenic train ride and count your lucky stars for being fortunate to afford your options. I have never seen such dirt poor poverty in my life as when I, too, traveled on the Amtrak through the blighted communities on the outskirts of towns/states in this the wealthiest country in the industrialized world. Last summer, I visited England and popped over to France via the Eurostar. Their poor communities look like America’s middle class.

    Florida and other southern state may be poor compared to the so called wealthy northern and LIBERAL states but the poor in the south are much wealthier than the poor in the north because their dollars get them a more tolerable life. Even the retirees from the north realize this. Count your lucky stars that you’re are also fortunate to chose where you want to live.

    May the lucky stars continue to bestow kindness upon you. And I am being sincere. You do more with your stroke of the pen/keys than the millions (myself included) do with their trite and pretentious posturings…

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