Behind-the-Camera of Photojournalist Nic Coury in Monterey County, California.

December 11, 2011

This is the End: Thoughts from Visiting the Monterey County Coroner's Office

Monterey County Sheriff's Detective Randall Dyck wheels a cadaver out of the morgue refrigerator.

On Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, I had a photo assignment for a feature story we did on the Monterey County Coroner's Office. It was an interesting and intriguing experience.

I got to see an full autopsy on a young man, which was also an interesting experience. I stood next to the body and other bodies in the morgue and while I'm not easily spooked, the main thing that struck me was how little life, if any, was still in them. It was a bit surreal.

Forensic pathologist Dr. John Hain cleans up following an autopsy.

The county's forensic pathologist Dr. John Hain is an interesting guy to talk to. As he put it, he wants the county to get better at how and why residents in Monterey County die. Hain says he can tell how someone died, but not necessarily why they died and was very intriguing.

In an area with the highest murder rate per capita and with occasional suicides, the reason of why a person chooses to send themselves or another to the afterlife baffles me as well. I have covered a handful of hard situations and murders in my career and I've never understood the motives of people in those situations.

As I photographed the four death investigators who work in the coroner's office, we chatted about the hard moments on both of our jobs. It was interesting to hear how to deal with death on a daily basis. I can't imagine being surrounded with the post-final moments all the time, but you would really start to appreciate life quite a bit more and start to care less about the frivolous nonsense that many people live daily.

One of the quotes in the story has Hain saying that, "(The coroner's office) is trying to give the dead a voice. They have something important to tell us."

My presumption would be that it is better to live well that hold pain and fear as the important things in life.


The morgue refrigerator is kept at 38 degrees.

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