For nearly a year journalist Sara Sidner was on the ground in Minneapolis. She covered the murder of George Floyd, the subsequent uprisings, and the trial of Derek Chauvin, the now convicted officer responsible for Floyd’s death. For a time she was a welcome local.
“There isn’t a day that has gone by since George Floyd was murdered, and the video went viral, where I didn’t talk to someone from the Minneapolis community—the Floyd family, their attorneys—[or have] written about what happened here,” she said the day after the Chauvin verdict was announced.
Sider, a national and international correspondent for CNN, knows a thing or two about being on the front lines. She’s witnessed families mangled by war and terrorism firsthand and led CNN’s coverage in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in 2014.
Earlier than that she was there—in person—amid the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. For the one-year anniversary, she recalled the experience for CNN:
“Outside there were a flurry of stunned reporters struggling with cables and notepads, cameras and phones trying to get the information back ASAP. We all stood in a row like sitting ducks. There were no barriers, no police tape, and nothing to stop anyone from getting too close.”
But it was the 2021 story of Juliana Jimenez Sesma, a Los Angeles woman who lost her mother and stepfather to COVID-19, that memorably brought Sidner to tears on live television in January. There were no stray bullet shells or bombs, no concrete buildings tumbling to the ground. Just a somber, socially distanced funeral in a parking lot under a pop-up canopy. For Sidner, and for numerous people around the world, this was another kind of front line.
Despite enduring those core-shaking experiences, there was something different about Minneapolis. In June, days after Floyd’s death, the city’s police chief, Medaria Arradondo, called the killing “a violation of humanity” outright. To see a chief almost immediately react against the blue-wall-of-silence culture that permeates the police force was a rare moment. For months Sidner was embedded in the community, which up until this April she referred to as her second home. Minneapolitans greeted her like she was one of their own, a kindness that helped take the edge off of a difficult day of reporting.
“I just always felt so helpless, honestly,” she says. “Because nothing I could say or do could fix the heartbreak in the community, the heartbreak of the family, the heartbreak of the people who stood there and watched a man be murdered, you know?”