Read the whole story, David Ponoroff: Cemetery Worker or Budding Philosopher?
This was the second “CNN Story” for this class, so I headed back out into the world to find an interesting character and construct a multimedia package focused on him/her, complete with a 12-image photo gallery, a 300-work text story, a headline and three highlights.
I chose to center my story on David Ponoroff, a recent graduate of the University of Florida who now works as the assistant director of Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. I knew I wanted to do my story on someone who works in a cemetery. I found it intriguing – what kind of person chooses to spend so much time in such a morbid place, and what kinds of effects, if any, does that have on a person?
So, I started doing some research on cemeteries I had seen in the area. I was talking with a classmate about what we wanted to do our stories about, and she told me about how there was a cemetery linked to Paynes Prairie. I became curious about it, so I knew I had to follow that curiosity all the way to the cemetery itself and see what I could find.
I called up the cemetery to ask if I could come in for a story, and the man who answered the phone, Freddie Johnson, was more than happy to let me visit. Everything was going smoothly until Hurricane Irma started getting closer to Gainesville. I thought my trek to the graveyard might not happen, and I even spent the Saturday before the storm frantically driving around Gainesville to find another story, finding almost everything to be closed. Luckily, the deadline was extended, and I jumped for joy knowing I would indeed be able to capture this story.
Johnson matched me up with David Ponoroff, who I had also spoken to on the phone, and I expected him to be an old, gray, wiry-looking man. I was quite surprised to see that he was around my age! I thought this made the story that much less predictable, and therefore, more interesting.
During the interview, we found ourselves in a deep discussion on the philosophical meaning of death and how pondering death can greatly increase life satisfaction. I love these conversations, and it was so cool to me that I could discuss these things with a complete stranger. The human experience truly does connect all of us, and I am grateful that this project led me to an opportunity to witness that.