The girl who put off death itself for one last race

The girl who put off death itself for one last race
In my 28 years of telling stories, there are two tales of guts and character that shook me to my very foundation, moved me like no others. And they tear at my heart still. When you work in the television news business, you are witness to all different kinds of courage. It comes in various shapes and sizes. Loud courage and quiet courage.

In my 28 years of telling stories, there are two tales of guts and character that shook me to my very foundation, moved me like no others. And they tear at my heart still.

One is the story of our beloved Kathi Goertzen. The other is Marin Morrison.

When I met Marin, she was swimming the breast stroke at a junior varsity swim meet for Eastlake High School. She was swimming with one arm and one leg. Her other limbs were paralyzed. She finished dead last by a mile, but you should have seen the place go wild!

I learned that she had, just two years earlier, been one of the best swimmers for her age in all of America. She had dreamed --and planned -- to swim in the Beijing Olympics.

Aggressive brain cancer changed all that. But Marin kept swimming, kept living, and she set her sights on the Paralympcs, which were also in Beijing.

The fight to get to Beijing was an epic one, and the performance she turned in once she got there is, in my mind, one of the great sports stories of my generation.

I couldn't shake the spell that Marin had cast upon me, and so, along with KOMO-TV editor/producer Darrin Tegman, and photographer Doug Pigsley, we set about making a documentary about Marin's life and triumph. Four years later, I haven't shaken her spell yet, and I want her story to be heard.

These words can be heard during the movie. They sum up the way I feel about Marin and her struggle:

"At every pool where dreams and potential are measured by the hundredth of a second, the name should be whispered in wonder and awe: Marin Morrison, the girl who loved swimming so much, she put off death itself for one last race.

"This is the story of a dream that would not die, and a dreamer who will live forever."

It's called "Touch the Wall." It airs on KOMO-TV, Sunday at noon.

Watch the trailer:

After 104 years, the last prayer in Tacoma's First Congregational Church

After 104 years of worship in their church, Tacoma's First Congregational Church held their final service this Sunday. The massive, Gothic style building is in need of significant repairs, and the small congregation has had difficulty supporting it. Mars Hill Church has agreed to buy the building, and the money from the sale will help the congregation find a smaller, more appropriate facility.

When you work on Sunday mornings, you end up covering stories in many different churches and places of worship. Yesterday's final service was one of the most poignant and emotional services I've been to, and the final prayer was one I won't forget.

Raw Video - Capitol Hill election party

In what is turning into a tradition, election night parties on Capitol Hill converged to form one giant celebration.
Photographed by KOMO photographers Randy Carnell, Brad Baker, Matt Arnold, and Joe Lawson

Behind the scenes of Lake Forest Park's scariest house

Last year on Halloween night a friend suggested our family take a little drive to Lake Forest Park to take a look at an amazing decorated Halloween house.  It was a bit out of our way but boy was it worth it.  The smoke the lights the sounds were incredible.  Homeowner Doug Woods had put up one eye popping display complete with air hoses powering monster heads and a garbage can ghoul that springs out scaring the unexpected visitor.  

That night last year I told Mr. Woods that I would be back next year to do a story on him.  I followed him weeks before the big night, setting up most of his display by himself, along with a little help from his neighbors.  Thanks to Doug Woods for his great work and his dedication to scare everyone on Halloween.

VIDEO: Fall colors on Lake Samish

Komo Photographer Peter Mongillo was out covering stormy weather and found himself on the picturesque shores of Lake Samish, just south of Bellingham.

Cle Elum's Amazing Wheelbarrow Tower

Cle Elum's Amazing Wheelbarrow Tower »Play Video

Traveling through Cle Elum, Eric Johnson and I happened upon Stephen Ristene, his neighbor Caleb, and their amazing wheelbarrow tower.

Tower Wheelbarrows

Imagine the surprise to those passing by,
the quizzical looks, the wondering why.
What’s that in the woods on the edge of Cle Elum?
Would anyone believe ya if you dared even tell ‘em?

The wheelbarrow’s a rickshaw for dirt and debris,
a long shot for glory and immortality.
But there in the trees among pine cones and sparrows,
is a sky scraping tower of rusty wheelbarrows.

There was no master plan when he first stacked dirt carriers,
imagination and gravity his only true barriers.
Does he rent them? Does he steal them? Is he on the straight and narrow?
Does his old dog Hunter beg, steal and wheel-barrow?

But he could only go so far without pushing his luck,
what the stacker really needed was a big fire truck.
And then just this morning, like a gift dropped from heaven,
came the big ladder truck from fire district seven.

Of all the great towers in all this great world,
we should remember and try to be mindful.
Spectacular feats of engineering and vision,
Babel, and Pisa, Eiffel.

But when they ask you to name the greatest of towers,
made by kings, czars or pharaohs,
Be sure to tell ‘em,
‘bout the one in Cle Elum,
Known simply as “Tower Wheelbarrows”

And when the stacking is done
and the stacker grows old,
there will be no sad goodbye.
 He’ll look up for a while then Stephen will smile,
and climb his wheelbarrow stairway to the sky.

- Eric Johnson

Fire District 7 Chief Russ Hobbs says that they don't often get a chance use their ladder truck, the wires and angle of the wheelbarrow tower made this project the perfect training exercise.

Behind the scenes of the Yarnbombed House story

"It's Very Capitol Hill" was fun to do. It's become the topic of conversation for a lot of folks around the area. Reporter Lindsay Cohen had hoped to do the story but was not able, so she gave it to me.
With the fence to around it, the challenge was getting a variety of shots in tight quarters, and because I shot it late in the day, I had to get those shots and the artist's interview in the twenty minutes before it got too dark. I went on auto-pilot at that point and had to hope I had enough when I sat down to edit.
 To flesh out the story, I had to rely heavily on interviews with passersby who, luckily, had much to say about it all. I was able to use their fantastic sound to advance the story and rely on the artist to fill in the some of the gaps, like the inside information on Ada's Books.
 It was a treat to work on this.

Middle school gets $20,000 in new instruments

The band and orchestra of College Place Middle School in Lynnwood were the lucky recipients of new musical instruments worth more than $20,000. Fidelity Investments presented the students with four timpani drums, three violins and two violas. The instruments were on the wish list for the school and their expanding music department.

Foggy morning timelapse

Foggy morning timelapse »Play Video

It was pretty foggy this morning in Seattle, this shot is taken from Fisher Plaza, looking south towards the Denny Triangle.

Behind the scenes: Keeping up with Bryan Johnson

Bryan and I needed to shoot a short tease for our story this week. I had no idea what he was going to do or how fast he could run. Bryan has been at KOMO for more than 50 years, but I think he has more fun covering the news than anyone else I know.

Here is the raw video, check it out!

Distraction Free Golf

A golf course where air traffic is hte norm, but some are saying enough is enough.

The Long Road Home

A sniper on the loose forces dozens of residents out of their homes. They wait on the roadside as police and swat comb the woods for the gunman.

Working in Hell

Firefighters put their lives on the line to protect people and their homes. This is an up close look at the front lines.


Maybe the most loved of the Eric's Little Heroes stories is the annual Mutton-Bustin' at the Puyallup Fair. This year's was one of the best.

This story was shot by KOMO Photographer Paul Koehnke