By Chetna Purohit, Assistant Producer
It was chaos in Bardstown, Kentucky, in the early morning hours of Feb. 6, 2007. Police, fire trucks, the Red Cross. A brick house burnt to its core. Panicked relatives and neighbors stood anxiously in the cold behind yellow police tape waiting for answers -- for any sign of hope.
Visible from the street was a charred bicycle. For hours, fire inspectors combed through the remains of the house. By daybreak the devastation was clear. One by one, they carried out the body bags – ten of them. Just as the last body was being placed in the truck, a man ran towards the home. Police stopped him just in time. I watched in horror as the medical examiner told him his 2-year-old twins were in the house. It was Kentucky's deadliest fire in 30 years. An entire family wiped out. The youngest was just 17 months.
I thought I had seen the worst of it until I got to the medical examiner's office. Walking down the halls, trying to comprehend what I had just seen, I walked past the autopsy room. On the table was the body of a child. In the chaos of the day I had managed to hold myself together. Now, I completely lost it.
The following night I attended a memorial service and was moved by the strength of this close-knit community. Amidst this tragedy, they found in each other hope for a better tomorrow.
'Dead Men Talking' airs on Dateline NBC Monday night, Aug. 20, at 10 p.m. ET.
Several members of the Dateline team reflected on their experience with the Louisville medical examiner's office. Read senior producer Maia Samuel's story on dealing with dead bodies here, and producer Fred Rothenberg's story about a late night phone call here.