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Covering the truly awful in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. –

As I drove from the Omaha airport to the Westroads Mall last night, it was a very familiar feeling, driving to a place I didn't know, in the middle of the night, to cover a truly awful story.

It reminded me of other middle of the night drives, after earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, school shootings, other crimes so sick and twisted it would pale any horror movie ever made.

I don't like horror movies or haunted houses at Halloween. I discourage my kids from both. I tell them, "Life is scary enough." They make fun of me, but I really believe it.

Long before I joined NBC News, I worked in local television as a police and court reporter.

Simply put, I've seen lots of blood on the sidewalk, kids crying for a parent that's never coming home, parents grieving for kids who were in the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time.

After all that, it still mystifies me when someone commits homicide: the unlawful taking of a human life as it's known in court.

It really mystifies me when a young person does it. What drove a 19-year-old kid to shoot up a suburban shopping mall?

I know all about teenage angst, I have two teenage boys. They are two and a half years younger than the shooter. I just can't imagine what goes through the mind of someone who kills eight people he's never seen before.

In a few days, we'll leave Omaha, and leave the people here to their pain and grief.

But the thing is, just when you think you've seen the worst, the phone rings, you get on a plane, and find yourself driving through an unfamiliar place, in the middle of the night, to another truly awful story.