I hear her talking loudly over the bulldozer – the bulldozer that’s clearing out her home in the woods.
The photojournalist Jason and I covering the story realize what we were hoping for on the car ride over was true – the people living in this soon-to-be-gone homeless camp are there.
They’re collecting their stuff.
Their hands nearly black from dirt.
Sweating just feet away from the bulldozer.
They’re frantically grabbing everything they can so they can take it to where they’re going next – a destination they haven’t figured out yet.
We greet the two and the man waves his hand high in the air at us.
Now we’re standing a couple feet from them, asking what they’re doing, what their thoughts are about their things being scooped and placed in a dumpster.
And I’m just standing there in awe, like I was a few days ago when I first visited the camp. Nobody was there then, but you could tell it was someone’s makeshift home.
Clothes hung on coat hangers from tree limbs. Plastic bottles, mattresses, cans scattered about. Two tents nearly falling over.
I stand listening to the man and woman, trying to pull away from my emotions, away from the sadness I feel for this man and woman.
I have to get their story. A story I know people need to hear, a story I’m willing to trek through the muddy woods to get.
They’re a couple who met three years ago at bingo.
I start taking notes of what he’s saying.
I write down what they’re wearing – he’s in overalls, she’s in a sheer top and lace-like pants.
I write down their names – Mark and Sonya.
They met at bingo three years ago.
He has been homeless on and off. He has Graves’ disease, he says. He’s 60 years old.
She spent 15 years as a waitress. She had a husband who died in Afghanistan ten years ago. She has a son.
Three cops sit on the outskirts of the woods in their pick-up trucks.
They watch Mark and Sonya. They watch the bulldozer.
I walk over to them.
I’m quickly told they can’t comment.
And I think to myself – Dear, Lord please let there be a day where cops don’t think we’re the scum from the bottom of a shoe.
I try to connect with the police. Try to show them I’m a human. Two know my family, my grandpa.
And then they’re friendly after we make the connection.
Mark and Sonya are deep into the woods now. Jason isn’t in sight.
I stand at the end of the trees waiting for him to come back, thinking I probably may never see Mark and Sonya again.
But I was wrong.
Two days later, they’d show up at The Sun News.
Follow reporter Hannah Louise Strong on Twitter @HannahLStrong