The message ingrained in my head in journalism school and throughout my journalistic career remains, “You can find a story anywhere.”

Everyone and everything have a story behind it whether it is succinct or lengthy. Asking ‘why’ can potentially splinter into wonderful discoveries. 

I ponder almost everything I come across. This can be silly information such as who was the brave soul who discovered milk and explained that to their peers? How traumatized was the person who discovered popcorn? Who decided we only have seven days in a week and how did each day get its name? 

I don’t have answers to some questions but, technically, the Babylonians said we have seven days in a week. 

That’s a lengthy rabbit hole to travel down but, in short: In 4000 B.C. they declared the sun, moon and five planets controlled an hour of each day and owned one day of the week. 

Succeeding civilizations named days after planets, Greek, Roman or Norse Gods. Thursday gets its name from a certain hammer-wielding Avenger who should have gone for the head. 

Thank goodness for people like Mignon Fogarty, who explained the origins of the days of the week on her Grammar Girl podcast. 

I also have serious inquiries, one of which involved a western catalpa tree at El Pomar Youth Sports Park. 

I took Harry for a walk at El Pomar in June and we ventured near the end of the sidewalk by the soccer and baseball fields. Harry hovered around that western catalpa tree, which is somewhat secluded between soccer fields G and H and behind Scheels’ Field and Field 7.

For those who don’t know, Harry is my 14-pound, 8-year-old guard dog Dachshund whom I cherish to the ends of earth. 

Except when he’s near grass. I’m sure most dog owners understand, but Harry feels the need to pee on each blade of grass, which extends walks longer than necessary. 

On this day, we took the long way around the park and past the western catalpa tree several times. Initially, I saw no one and Harry mostly hovered and sniffed around it. After a four-minute snoop and no action, I decided to nudge him in the direction of our walk.  

We looped around for our final lap and this time we saw three people near the tree. Rather than his performative, “I’m gonna bark at you until you pet me,” routine when he sees people, Harry continued his inspection. 

I figured the tree had history if people visited and Harry snooped. But the surrounding area has no markers or signs to indicate what the tree represents. 

Before I could ask, Lucrecia Sjoerdsma, one of the three people at the tree, told me it represents suicide victims in El Paso County and was planted after the 2020 Race Against Suicide held by Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention and Heartbeat Survivors After Suicide. 

Sjoerdsma is a volunteer with Heartbeat Survivors After Suicide and lost her daughter to suicide nearly six years ago. Sjoerdsma told me about this year’s Race Against Suicide, Heartbeat for Survivors’ community work and how they plan to plant another tree.

The current tree has no signs because El Pomar is a city park and requires permission to post information. Heartbeat Survivors After Suicide hopes to provide a plaque, bench or something else to highlight the reason for the soon-to-be-trees in the area.

Sjoerdsma’s story eventually led me to write in this issue a deeper story about suicide prevention and survivor support groups. 

Understanding signs of depression or someone who’s potentially suicidal never popped up until that discussion and my subsequent talks with Cassandra Walton and Kevin and Betty Van Thournout. 

That battle between the ears remains a constant issue for some. A person smiling and saying “good morning/afternoon/evening” in a joyous manner does not necessarily mean they are happy. 

Know and learn potential signs: substance abuse, late arrival to work, poor hygiene and so many more. Don’t rush to judgment and always try to help people. 

We all have our battles and we all handle them differently. I’m grateful for that encounter in June at the catalpa tree and happy Harry put his snout to good use. 


Marcus Hill is a reporter for the Southeast Express and Schriever Sentinel. He graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication.