Three days after I arrived back in Boston, I met with then-Gazette editor Donna Capodelupo, who hired me to join the team as a general assignment reporter, covering business, crime, politics and sports.
That was June 28, 2010.
Today, July 14, 381 days later, the time has come to say goodbye. I'm moving on to work for ESPN The Magazine.
Over the past year, I've covered fires, car accidents, unemployment rate fluctuations, press conferences, political debates, elections, new business openings, the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, Whittier sports, Haverhill sports and more. I've witnessed unrestrained exuberance and unadulterated despondency. I've seen angry fights on a football field, hugs at the scene of a house fire and tears at the end of an upset loss.
I've watched an 0-for-17 shooting performance, a 6-for-6 batting night and a football game with less than 100 total yards of offense. I covered a winless football team, the second-best volleyball in the state and a softball team bursting at the seams with talent. I've watched in rain, snow, sleet, hail and beautiful sunshine. I've driven to Hudson, to Easton, to Malden.
I've heard from angry boosters, proud parents and Facebook friends. I've met with business owners, job seekers, politicians, coaches, administrators, athletes and others.
I've talked with political candidates about everything from gay marriage to the corporate tax rate, from abortion to the debt ceiling, from military spending to Social Security privatization.
My colleague, Tim McCarthy, and I have fought through layoffs, changing editorial direction and prioritization and shoddy computers.
It's been a wild, 381-day ride.
And I've loved every minute of it.
The newsroom environment, even in our little office at 181 Merrimack St., is irreplaceable. It simply cannot be duplicated. That environment — the stories, the support, the competition, the rants, the banter, the late nights — is something I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
After working on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's sports copy desk for two years, the Gazette offered me the opportunity of a lifetime: to write full-time for a newspaper. To tell Haverhill's stories.
Donna, and the Gazette, gave me my shot, and I'll be forever grateful.
Haverhill is where I covered my first election, my first football game, my first house fire.
I remember my first breaking news story. I received a call about a fire at Jon Golnik's campaign headquarters in Westford. I sped down 495, talked with firefighters at the scene and then spoke with Golnik and his campaign staff at his new office.
We broke that story. We were first. It was a feeling I'll never forget.
I had a lot of those feelings over the past 381 days. Haverhill is a microcosm of America. There are good parts and bad, rich parts and poor parts, good schools and bad. It's a politically active, engaged, proud community with a healthy dose of cynical realism and hopeful optimism.
This is a special city with special people.
Thank you for letting me be a small part of it.