By the Way

The hardest thing a journalist must do

By Anita Lee

Frank Brown, father of B.J. Brown, outside the clubhouse at Muddy Joe's in Hancock County, after learning his son's body had been found in nearby Tranquility Lake.
Frank Brown, father of B.J. Brown, outside the clubhouse at Muddy Joe's in Hancock County, after learning his son's body had been found in nearby Tranquility Lake. SUN HERALD

When I called Frank Brown on Wednesday morning, there was still hope his son was alive.

B.J. Brown had been missing since Saturday night. He was camping with his wife and friends. They were at a campground concert when B.J. excused himself to go the the rest room and never returned.

I happened to have the Sunday shift, so I wrote the first story about B.J.'s disappearance. I found out about B.J. on Facebook because B.J.'s cousin, state Sen. Sean Tindell, posted a plea there for help finding him.

I called Tindell for an interview and kept in touch with him each day for updates. I hesitated about contacting B.J.'s immediate family because I could only imagine how distraught they must be.

By Wednesday morning, I felt the need to reach out to them. Tindell sent me Frank Brown's number.

Frank Brown told me to come on to the campground, Muddy Joe's. He said the family had indeed been too distraught to talk, but as time wore on, he thought a story would help let more people know B.J. was missing.

I told him I would see him around 11 a.m. I was sitting in a parking lot, about to walk into an office for a 9 a.m. interview. That would take about an hour, then I would need another 45 minutes to reach the campground.

I headed for the campground, off Mississippi 53, at around 10:05 a.m. I received a text at 10: 30 a.m. from Web editor Kate Magandy. "Don't know if you're with the family yet," she said, "but BJ's body was found today."

I had not reached the campground. I spent the rest of the drive thinking about B.J., whom I knew only from a smiling photograph taken the night he disappeared, and about how his family must feel.

B.J. Brown's body was recovered Wednesday from Tranquility Lake at Muddy Joe's campground in Hancock County. He went missing during a concert on the property Saturday night. His father, Frank Brown, thanked the community for their support.

When I arrived, Frank Brown was walking out of the clubhouse that had become the family headquarters during the search. I had never met him, but after a few people hugged him, tears in their eyes, I realized he must be B.J.'s father.

What a strong man he turned out to be. He didn't run me off. He didn't yell at me.

Instead, he paused for a few minutes to talk with me, a journalist. And I believe he did so because he wanted to thank the hundreds of people who turned out to help look for his son, and the countless law enforcement agencies that sent assistance as well.

After an excruciating wait, Brown was relieved that his son had been found. Now, the family waits to find out how B.J. died.

Thanks -- and much respect -- go to Frank Brown, his sister, Krista St. Romain, her husband, John, and friends of B.J.'s who took the time to talk with me.

Our readers have avidly followed this story. I'm sure they appreciate knowing, from the interviews his friends and family gave at this tragic time, what a fine young man B.J. was and how much it meant to his family that so many cared to help bring him home.