The stories about meth addict Mary Reasoner we printed Sunday through Thursday brought a variety of reactions, ranging from anger that we would run such disturbing information to praise for bringing to light the dark world of meth.
And it's a well populated world, even in this small town. Reporter Teri Vance, after observing the Sheriff's Department Special Enforcement Team in action pursuing drug dealers and users, wrote, "Like cockroaches moving about in the darkness, an entire civilization comes to life in this town when the sun goes down."
For those who ask why we would devote so much space to one drug addict who ultimately ends up in jail, part of the answer is that this story was not just about Mary Reasoner. In fact, there is little unique about this woman, a meth addict and mother.
There's no way to tell how many like her live in our neighborhoods, but in a conversation with Sheriff Kenny Furlong I asked if there might be dozens of mothers in this city addicted to meth.
"I would say there's many more than that," he replied.
Statistics tell us that Nevada's meth problem is greater than any other state. Happy endings are uncommon. Mary Reasoner's story began with the notion that it would have an inspirational message, but now she's in prison.
For Mary, you have to wonder what will represent a real turning point if it did not come from whatever inspired her to ask that her story be shared with thousands of people.
Her final words of the series, "I'm going to win this battle - believe that!" were written from a prison. Does anyone, after reading about her repeated failures, really believe those words? I'm pretty sure the answer is no, for most readers. But it's Mary who must believe, and there is still a chance she'll prove all of us wrong. I hope so: She will be out of prison and back in Carson City in about a year.
There is help out there for anyone who wants it, and there are some who do escape the drug world and the super-addictive pull of meth. Several people have sent us their stories since this series ran, and some of them will be featured in Sunday's paper.
I also hope that she also has achieved the goal she hoped for when she first contacted the Appeal newsroom: to let the community know that this drug is evil. Don't try it, not even once.
Were we trying to gain sympathy for Mary in these stories? Not even close.
The truth is Mary Reasoner belongs in prison. She committed crimes and harmed many people in her single-minded pursuit to get money to get high. Our law enforcement officers put themselves in danger every night hunting people like her, not just for using drugs, but for committing crimes to get money to buy more drugs. More than half the crimes in our city are believed to be drug-related.
But the ugliest truth in the stories has nothing to do with the addicts themselves.
It's the children.
How can any child with meth addicts as caregivers and role models grow up free of similar problems?
There are probably hundreds of these children in our schools. Many of them are getting help from mentoring programs or CASA, but many are not. For them, living with drug addicts is just another day.
We hope Mary's children break the cycle, and there is good reason for that hope. They do have people in their lives who care about them and make sure they are involved in activities. We hope they use the scholarship funds we're setting up for them, $500 each to start and $1 from each new subscription. If you're interested in contributing, just contact me.
Finally, I am proud of the work done by our reporter, Teri Vance, and photographer, Brad Horn. Teri and Brad went out night after night with no agenda other than to find the truth about Mary's life and, by extension, the truth about the No. 1 problem in Carson City. They walked into unsafe situations and found their ways around obstacle after obstacle in pursuit of the story.
I'm also proud to be at a paper that supports and encourages such efforts, including publisher John DiMambro, who didn't flinch when told of the content of the photos and words that would be appearing this week. And it was former editor Barry Smith at the helm when the project began. He is now an active member of Partnership Carson City, a group with a very ambitious goal - get rid of meth in Carson City.
If you missed the stories, you can still find them online at www.nevadaappeal.com. We'll share more reaction in Sunday's Appeal.
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. Contact him at 881-1221 or firstname.lastname@example.org