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Breaking news: Young woman meets sudden, tragic death

Jennifer Parcell went to Parris Island and watched the Marine graduation services for her older brother, Joseph. She decided that she, too, wanted to join the Marines, and eventually both Jennifer Parcell and her brother were sent to Iraq, even serving at the same post for a time. But then, they separated. Yesterday, Jennifer Parcell was supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province when she was killed in action.

Breaking news: Young woman meets sudden, tragic death

This blog entry was posted on Feb. 9, 2007.

This is a special report.

Normally at this hour, we bring you some lighter fare, maybe the latest dumb comment from the world of sports, or even a tear-jerker like a picture of stranded polar bears. But tonight, there is one story that is so important that we are going to suspend all regular blog coverage, and ignore everything else that is going on in world, from the presidential race to the gridlock in the halls of Congress to the indictment of the most powerful politician here in our hometown of Philadelphia.

This breaking news story is about the sudden, unexpected, and tragic death of a young woman, not to mention the family that she leaves behind.

Yes, people die every day, and too many do so before their time. But this woman was special, and the things that she did made an impact on all of us.

Oh, there were many things that this woman, so deserving of our undivided attention tonight, did not do. No, she didn't take off her clothes for a men's magazine for a big payday, work as "an exotic dancer" or marry a billionaire customer who was 63 years older than her. Nor did she spend most of her adult life pursuing that billionaire's estate in courtrooms from Texas to Washington, D.C., or record her life for a reality TV show, or abuse drugs, or give birth to a child whose paternity is the focus of a legal battle.

Frankly, we feel silly for even writing those things, because such a woman would clearly not be newsworthy.

No, unlike some women you might see on your newsstand this week, this woman liked simple things: According to one report, she "always enjoyed the water, including boating and scuba diving. She also liked yoga and music and spending time with family and friends."

This is what her aunt says about this unique woman that America mourns tonight:

"If you knew her, you loved her. She was a go-getter. She knew what she wanted in life and she was doing what she had to do to achieve that."

Her name is Jennifer M. Parcell. She was just 20 years old, and she graduated in 2004 from Fallston High School in near her hometown, Bel Air, Md.

A couple of years ago, Jennifer Parcell went to Parris Island and watched the Marine graduation services for her older brother, Joseph. She decided that she, too, wanted to join the Marines, and eventually both Jennifer Parcell and her brother were sent to Iraq, even serving at the same post for a time.

But then, they separated. Yesterday, Jennifer Parcell was supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province when she was killed in action. If we had more information about her death, we would provide it. But here at Attytood, we don't have the millions of dollars in resources or the extra manpower that they have at CNN, or MSNBC, or Fox News.

We wish we did, because then we could give the life and death of Jennifer Parcell the national attention that it truly deserves.

We could call in our medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to talk about the type of combat injuries that America's fighting men and women are suffering in Iraq, and whether the troops have adequate protection. Then we would dial up our legal affairs correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin, and discuss whether or not Congress has the legal authority to defy the White House and bring at least some of our soldiers home. We'd send all our spare reporters out into the field, maybe to track down the last person who saw Jennifer Parcell alive, or find that friend who could tell us about her life, and our loss. We would make sure that our news coverage gave you a name and a face to go with that number, 3,115.

You may think that we're crazy here, to devote all our attention to the story of just one woman. But at CNN, anchor T.J. Holmes Don Lemon defended this type of saturation coverage just this afternoon. Here's what he said:

"With everything that's going on...that's the reason we've covering it, because it sort of supersedes entertainment. There are a couple of lawsuits at stake here, and it's just been a very tumultuous time for her."

Agreed. This is a very tumultuous time, not just for the families of brave Americans like Jennifer Parcell, but for all of us. We leave you with a picture of her that was taken last September on Iwo Jima. She was very beautiful, and very, very young:

If a woman's death ever deserved wall-to-wall coverage, it was this one.

UPDATE: Greg Mitchell from Editor and Publisher has a great piece this afternoon, with even more about Jennifer Parcell, including some more information from this morning's Baltimore Sun. She was even more special than we first realized:

Even in Iraq, she was managing to take a course at the University of Maryland, the Baltimore Sun relates, adding: "Helping others was routine for the Marine corporal. She sponsored an African child through a mission charity. And when Pakistan was devastated by an earthquake last year, she and others in her unit were dispatched to the scene. She earned the Humanitarian Service Medal for her efforts."
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