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This can’t be.

I am still shaken by Steve Persall’s column about a former co-worker of mine who morphed from a solid newspaper reporter into a crack-addicted, homeless woman after she was laid off two years ago. He didn’t name her, but it didn’t take long to find out her identity and realize it was someone who I liked, someone whose work I respected.

To be sure, this is not a story of hard times turning a once stellar professional into a homeless drug addict. She has a history with depression and mental illness. Severe mental illness ran in her family.

I don’t know what triggered her fall, but it breaks my heart to read that this beautiful woman has spent nights curled up on the streets, being beaten up or urinated on by men.

Most reporters have written at least a few stories about once-successful professionals who fell down and became street people and crack addicts. I have never known a journalist to actually have the same experience. It seems so unlikely. She was too intelligent. Too beautiful. Too exposed to the consequences of drugs. But, she’s still suffering, and I wonder if she will ever traverse the chasm between lost cause and respectability.

I hope she will write a book about her experience. Sure, there have been other stories of people who have suffered the same ordeal, but she can write. I wish she’d remember and use her talent. I wish she could come back to a safer, saner world. As it is, it’s too sad.

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