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A Tribute to Kate

Editor's Note:

Woman killed in solo East County accident


4:25 p.m. March 21, 2005

DULZURA - A 22-year-old Jamul woman died today
when the car she was driving veered off a rural
East County street, flipped over and crashed
into an outcropping of boulders, authorities said.

Katia Newman is the daughter
of KPRI Traffic Reporter, Gayle Newman.

The deep blue skies and sunshine were in contrast to the gusty cold wind that blew across the manicured grounds at Glen Abbey Mortuary. Dressed in a black leather jacket, slacks and gray shirt, I was sharing the agony of a dear friend with 200 other souls who were dealing in their own solitary way with the loss of a beautiful young girl.

The Chapel of the Roses is small but beautiful inside and out. As part of the overflow crowd, I sat in a tent outside that rocked back and forth in the gusting wind. The wind and the tent combined to make an ethereal metronome.

When a 22-year-old dies, when any young person dies, there is a void as profound as if you awoke from a deep sleep and discovered all color removed from the world. I ached with pain for everyone gathered as I listened deeply to the remembrances of this daughter of my dear friend. I ached for their loss.

I was glad for the music. There was music. Music is so critical to healing wounds. Two brave friends sang through their tears. There was a bagpiper.

The bagpiper's rendering of "Amazing Grace" brought some solace. A former slave ship captain wrote the song to express his feelings for receiving God's favor. You can feel that way when you make safe harbor after having been in a small slave ship rocking in 30-foot waves off the coast of Ireland. You don't have to know the words. A bagpipe moves right through to your heart.

When the service concluded, I stood in a receiving line to give my support. That's the premise. How incredibly strong a mother must be to bear this.

A piano played a beautiful melody that somehow hovered perfectly just above the surrealistic scene. I couldn't place the melody. With repetition, it became like the gentle roll of waves on a shore. As I stood in line and saw my friend, I felt my emotions ebb. Just as a strong undertow drags you underwater and away from shore and leaves you feeling helpless and hoping for air, my own emotions, which I promised myself would be positive in this tragedy's face, drained into a dark deep.

I knew that nothing I could say would help her get through this awful moment. So, I said nothing except "I'm sorry", awkwardly hugging her and staying long enough to realize she was much stronger than I was.

Irony is gloom and sunshine sharing the same tableau. Even though I'd been accompanied to this memorial with my best friend, I walked alone to my truck, opened up a brand-new copy of "Green Day presents American Idiot" and turned up Billie Joe's vocals to auricular-threatening volume. My cell phone rang. It was my daughter.

I wondered if Billie Joe Armstrong's make-up runs when he cries.