Hannah Opacich Story Behind the Story
Grace Lim expects your absolute best. I knew this before signing up for the Longform Journalism In the Digital Age Class. Grace was my professor for two classes prior to this one, so I was pretty familiar with her teaching style and fast-paced personality. Nothing could prepare me, on the other hand, for the subject matter that this class would deal with.
“We are going to produce the third edition of the War: Through Their Eyes project,” Grace explained. As she said those words, my mind turned into a jumbled, foggy mess. I wasn’t going to be able to do this, how could I? I was far from familiar with the war and the military. I have never known anyone who had a role in any wars or who was involved in the military at all. I already felt a step behind others in my class because of this.
A 22-year-old journalism major and German minor, I’ve known that I wanted to write since I watched Harriet the Spy at the tender age of 7. It didn’t set in that I would do it professionally until later in high school, when I realized that I had to make the big decision concerning my future endeavors. At that point in my life, I realized that the only profession that I could envision myself in was as a writer. I love the way that letters and words can form and mold different thoughts and meanings to different people.
After stepping into the classroom on the first day, I quickly realized, with no surprise, that Grace was taking no time at all with this class. By the first week, I had already been assigned with my very own soldier. Aaron Jackson, I read. This made the upcoming events seem very real and scary.
I first met Aaron in the VRC in the afternoon. He was sitting with his friend, also a war veteran. The first thing that I noticed about Aaron was that he was very approachable and goofy, and had a very welcoming aura. We chatted easily and I felt at ease with him. I was nervous that his jokester personality would get in the way, but as soon as I got him in the studio, I realized he would be much more open in that environment.
Soon after first meeting Aaron and asking a few basic questions, I quickly got him in the studio. He seems very laid back and comfortable about the whole ordeal. This almost seems strange to me, as I was a near-stranger asking him very personal questions. But Aaron was fun to interview, as he always had a lot to say and would elaborate on answers if I ever needed him to.
I quickly learned that Aaron felt more comfortable talking about his life leading up to, and after, the war, than about exact events that happened while he was in Iraq. I didn’t ever try to pry and probe for information, because if he didn’t want to talk about something, it wasn’t my decision to make. The stories that Aaron did tell me, however, were engaging and sometimes heart-wrenching.
After a couple of times in the studio, countless follow-up questions, over 10,000 transcribed words, and several drafts, I produced the final draft of my story. I’m very happy with how it turned out, and I’m glad that Aaron will get his time to shine through my words.
Meeting and getting to know Aaron has been a wonderful and rewarding experience. I have never known a war veteran, and just getting to talk with him has opened my eyes to many things that I was ignorant about in the past. I truly believe that Aaron is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. He has faced so many hardships, yet he doesn’t feel sorry for himself at all. He works hard each day, and continues to strive to become the person that he aspires to be. I feel honored to have met Aaron this year, and I’m glad that I was chosen to tell his story.