Once upon a time, NBC sent me and a team of video journalists to Macomb County Michigan (just north of Detroit) with a mandate to hang with a dashing young medical examiner named Dr. Daniel Spitz. He had agreed to give us unprecedented access to his morgue and to his team of investigators who, in shifts, were on call 24/7/365. So my team and I also split into shifts.
The bosses instructed us to shoot all the video we could. If we came back with just enough material to fill one one-hour show, they said, fine. If we came back with more, even better. Well, we came back with three shows' worth of material and this is the one I'm proudest of, because not only was I running the team and overseeing their scripts, but I was also writing and producing my own story simultaneously. Here's the backstory of this episode.
One day I stepped into the morgue's walk-in freezer and saw a 19-year-old who had hanged himself in his grandparents' barn that morning, lying next to a 44-year-old woman who had died mysteriously. I immediately thought to myself "These two people were complete strangers in life, and now here they are next-door neighbors in death." I immediately knew EXACTLY how I was going to write this episode.
It was a creepy yet fascinating project to work on, being a bystander watching people have their last doctor's appointment ever. I wrote an essay about it here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26289264/ns/msnbc-documentaries/t/am-i-still-afraid-death-sure/#.WaL18a2ZM_U