'That's Why I do This Job. I Want to Improve our Community and State.'

post and courier
Real News. A Real Difference: Carol Armstrong suffered a brutal attack that left her with a severe brain injury, blind in one eye, confined to a wheelchair and paralyzed on the left side of her body. Above her husband, James, lays his head on her shoulder in this file photo from 2002. Jennifer Berry Hawes’ story about Carol resulted in an outpouring of support from the community.

By Jennifer Berry Hawes
Reporter, The Post and Courier

When I first met Carol Armstrong, she’d just suffered brutal attack after leaving work one night.
A man, a stranger to her, left the devout young mother with a severe brain injury, blind in one eye and confined to a wheelchair, the left side of her body paralyzed. Carol had survived nearly dying, but she no longer could enjoy basic freedoms and dignities because neither her car nor home was wheelchair accessible.
So, I wrote about Carol’s journey. I wanted people to know what she’d endured and the obstacles she faced. That’s my role as a journalist—to inform our community and state about happenings around us and give voice to people like Carol who cannot themselves shout loudly enough to prompt change.

Jennifer Berry Hawes
After her story ran, the community rallied in response. A local resident donated a conversion van that could fit her wheelchair. Local residents and business owners held multiple fundraisers. They donated money, building supplies and labor to build Carol and her family a new wheelchair-accessible house. Thanks to them, she once again could enter her own bathroom. She could get outside and dig in her garden. She could reach her boys’ bedrooms on her own to kiss them good-night.
That’s why I do this job. I want to improve our community and state. I live here, too. I’ve raised children here, worked here and owned a house here for two decades. However, I’ve also seen first-hand the women who live in terror of abusive husbands, families who live in dire poverty, and victims of senseless violence trying to mend their lives.
Our community isn’t perfect. It’s my job as a journalist to give voice to those who struggle and hold accountable those with the power to address those struggles. It’s also my job to inform our readers about people who step up to make changes and whose triumphs celebrate our community. People like Carol Armstrong.

Listen to Jennifer and fellow reporter Glenn Smith talk about their work on “Till death do us part,” an investigative series on domestic violence in South Carolina that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.