July 1 marked one year since Mitch Sneed was taken from us but it feels like yesterday.

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh, I believe in yesterday”

He was taken from us — the newsroom, which considered him a friend — and his family and friends. He was taken from Alexander City and Tallapoosa County, an area that needed him, one that relied on him for the news and one that turned to him for almost anything. And he was taken suddenly and far too soon.

Mitch was my go-to guy in Alex City. I wasn’t scared to call him for anything, whether it was work related or something personal. He would do anything for just about anybody. That’s the kind of person he was.

When it snowed, Mitch picked me up and took me to work because I was too scared to drive in the snow. Yeah, I’m a true Southerner; y’all know we can’t drive — or hardly function — when it snows.

Of course, we worked through the snow while the rest of the town pretty much shut down. We still have to report the news and the newspaper still has to go out, even on holidays, during snowpocalypses and probably even actual apocalypses with zombies and all that other end-of-the-world-type stuff. 

Sounds fun, right?

It’s part of the newspaper business, and one of the remarkable things about Mitch was he never complained. 

I can’t understand how he did what he did while keeping a smile on his face and hardly ever losing his cool day in and day out. I’m sure he had his moments he didn’t let the newsroom see, but he truly just loved what he did and loved life. 

After he died, the members of the newsroom really immersed ourselves into our work. We couldn’t even take time to properly grieve because we wanted to keep going for him — our boss who tirelessly led us and the community, worked 16-hour days almost every day, hardly ever took a vacation and always had delivering the news as his top priority. 

His wife, Cyndi, told me he would be sitting on the couch in his boxers and immediately hop up to cover breaking news when it happened. I fully believe that. Not every journalist has that dedication to the news. Honestly, depending on what it is, most of us might groan a bit when something happens after hours, disrupts our personal time and we have to go cover it. Mitch just wasn’t that way. The news excited him, kept him going and was part of his day-to-day life. He didn’t think twice about it.

The newsroom refused to let his work go to waste and we worked endless amounts of overtime collectively to make sure we kept the paper going and going good. We put our hearts, souls, sweat and tears into the paper. We knew it could never be what it was when he was here but we were determined to do our best and do right by him. 

I was recently promoted to assistant managing editor, and the long hours, heavy workload and juggling everything in general is hard. Admittedly, I, unlike him, find myself complaining from time to time. Some days I wonder if I really have it in me but I think of him and quickly snap out of it. I say, “What would Mitch do?” and try to guide myself in that way. 

“Suddenly, (we’re) not half the (newsroom we) used to be

There’s a shadow hanging over (us)

Oh, yesterday came suddenly”

Sports editor Lizi Arbogast and I just got back from the Alabama Press Association convention in Orange Beach. This weekend we accepted his slew of awards we already knew he won and many other awards TPI won as well, and it was all in his honor. 

I can’t help but feel flat-out sad. I miss him and I wish he were here. It’s upsetting to have to accept awards in his memory because he should be here. 

While it’s tough and the anniversary of his death makes all who knew him sad, I hope this newsroom has done him a bit of justice working our hearts out without him. We aren’t perfect and while we think he was pretty close to it, he would argue us on that. It’s a challenge to do the job as well as he did but we’re trying. If he were here, after joking on us for moping around without him, I think he’d pat our backs and say, “Good job team,” like he always did.

The shadow hanging over us continues to linger but doing good work in his memory and remembering him for all he was is what gives us light. 

Santana Wood is the assistant managing editor of TPI's newspapers.