It was a weird one, that windy day in April 2007. I was sleep-deprived from the 24-hour Holocaust vigil that had been going on since the previous night, rattled by the fire in a nearby building and chilled to the bone by the day’s fierce wind. It was a relief to walk into the journalism building until I realized that I was surrounded by dozens of other people, including one costumed in a full-body frog suit, in the usually sparse lobby. The confusion only grew when a stranger shoved a plate of cake into my left hand and a plastic cup of champagne into my right one. “What…what is going on?” “Professor Roberts just won a Pulitzer for his book!” Professor Gene Roberts, whose civil rights journalism class I was headed toward? His book, “The Race Beat,” our class textbook? I pushed through the dozens of people crowding the lobby and sank into my seat, surrounded by my similarly confused classmates. A few minutes later, Professor Roberts made his way to the front of the room and began class as usual. Only there was nothing usual about this class, as it kept getting disrupted by knocks on the door and professors ducking in to congratulate my professor. After twenty minutes, Professor Roberts gave up on trying to hold anything resembling a real class and dismissed us. “He has an interview with The New York Times,” his TA explained. I downed the remaining champagne (the idea of free champagne during class was the coolest thing to this 20-year-old) and headed across campus to the Holocaust vigil, trying to piece together the last thirty minutes of my day.

Yesterday, I was midway through writing a post about the fabulous weather we’ve been having when my friends over at On Deadline tweeted that the winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Prizes had just been announced. In the three years since Professor Roberts was named the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, I haven’t had strong feelings either way for any of the other recipients.

Until this year.

I’ve been a fan of Gene Weingarten’s ever since reading his June 2008 column in support of copy editors. Used to his witty columns and even wittier Twitter posts, I somehow overlooked the feature story he wrote last March on parents who forgot to take their young children out of the car. I read it yesterday, then again this morning. Then I shared it with a coworker. Now, as I write this post, I’ve skimmed the story again, chills running up my spine once more.

“The room was a sepulcher. Witnesses spoke softly of events so painful that many lost their composure. When a hospital emergency room nurse described how the defendant had behaved after the police first brought him in, she wept. He was virtually catatonic, she remembered, his eyes shut tight, rocking back and forth, locked away in some unfathomable private torment. He would not speak at all for the longest time, not until the nurse sank down beside him and held his hand. It was only then that the patient began to open up, and what he said was that he didn’t want any sedation, that he didn’t deserve a respite from pain, that he wanted to feel it all, and then to die.”

Please, read Weingarten’s story. The words will affect you, chill you and warm you in ways you didn’t think possible. If the entire story breaks your heart, the last few paragraphs will put it back together. By the time I finished reading it for the first time, the tears that had welled in my eyes made their way down my cheeks. So used to the funny, quippy Weingarten, I had forgotten that he also won the 2008 Pulitzer for Feature Writing, that award for his piece on Joshua Bell, the world-renowned violinist who performed “undercover” at a Metro station in Washington. The Josh Bell story was a fascinating look at the way society views art, but “Fatal Distraction” is so deep and cutting that you can’t help but hold your breath as you read, waiting for the inevitable outcome of each story to be a good one but knowing that it won’t.

A few weeks ago, Weingarten responded to one of my tweets with this:

Full disclosure: His response was provoked. I had originally tweeted, “#FF: @geneweingarten. That is all. Just about every tweet of his has made me laugh this week. Gene Weingarten tweets are the best medicine.”

In the brief, friendly back-and-forth that followed, I mentioned that I was also a fan of Leonard Pitts’ writing style, saying, “His columns reduce me to tears. Often.”

But this time, it was Weingarten’s words that reduced me to tears.

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