By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I understood. We had only been talking for a few minutes, and these girls didn't know me. Maybe they didn't trust a reporter enough to tell him a silly story about a crying tree. Or maybe they were telling me the truth.
"We made her," the girl said again. "With our hands."
Alejandro asked me what I thought of the tree. I told her I respected the faith of the people who believed in it and would not mock them. I finished my tea and said goodbye.
I had never been suspicious of her motives. I believed her when she told me she didn't plan to sell the tree, and that the offerings they were collecting would go toward a needy family's Christmas.
That night when I got home I called a Catholic friend of mine. He laughed at my stories of mystical trees and cracked windows. Like me, he wondered why anyone would believe Mary would appear in a tree, and why every time one of these "sightings" occurred, hundreds of people turned out to see it. Wasn't the media complicit in this? And why was I the first reporter to ask how the image appeared in the tree?
"I bet you anything that tree's already on eBay," he said.
We looked. We found a clock with Mary's image. A petrified rock. But no trees.
"Just wait," he said. "Give it a week."
But I was sure that when the rain stopped, someone would come to see the tree, and they would find what they were looking for.