2012 OWH Year in Pictures – Rebecca S. Gratz

Photo showcase: 2012 OWH Year in Pictures – Rebecca S. Gratz

As always, this year was full of moments, such as in a standoff in Alliance, Neb., a children’s garden, Tom Osborne’s retirement, an extreme drought and plenty of sports. To view a photo showcase of my favorite images of 2012, click here.

Chas and Ellen Lierk stand and hold hands with fellow congregants during Mass at Church of the Holy Rosary in Alliance, Neb., on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. Chas Lierk credits his faith with helping him survive when Andy Gonzalez held him hostage in Thiele Pharmacy on June 12, 2012.

When a gunman entered an Alliance pharmacy on June 12 and held the pharmacist hostage in a standoff with law enforcement, reporter Joe Duggan and I raced to the western edge of Nebraska. While constantly listening to radio updates and reading developments online, we made the seven-hour drive to Alliance, arriving at about 9 p.m. MST. By then, pharmacist Chas Lierk had escaped and gunman Andy Gonzalez was still holed up inside. Within the next hour and a half, we watched and mostly listened from two blocks away as the Nebraska State Patrol’s SWAT team exchanged a barrage of gunfire with Gonzalez, eventually confirming the 27-year-old’s death at 11:30 p.m. To read Duggan’s story from that night, click here.

After briefly approaching the door, law enforcement officers back away from Thiele Pharmacy on Tuesday night, June 12, 2012.

Over the next few days, Duggan and I did as much reporting and research as we could into what happened in the pharmacy and Gonzalez’s background. Our main goal, however, was to reach out to Lierk. Obviously, he had been through a harrowing ordeal while being held hostage for seven hours and making a daring escape in which he was struck by two bullets.   Three days after the standoff, we knocked on the Lierks’ door. Chas and his wife, Ellen, were kind enough to let us in to tell us how they were doing. With the investigation ongoing, Chas was limited in what he could share with us about that day.

Investigators process the scene the morning after an armed standoff in Thiele Pharmacy near Third Street and Box Butte Avenue in downtown Alliance.

Duggan and I knew Lierk had an incredible story to tell. So, in November, when the grand jury concluded its customary investigation into the officer-involved shooting, Duggan gave him a call. Again, the Lierks were very kind and open, and they allowed us to visit. It was incredible to see how well the Lierks were recovering with the help of faith, family and friends. Chas sat down for an interview in which he relived the entire ordeal. To read Duggan’s article, click here.  To view a photo showcase of the standoff and aftermath, click here.


In a much lighter story, I periodically checked in with the Primrose School of Legacy as students planted, tended and harvested vegetables from their garden. To read about their efforts, click here.

Natalie Nuno, 7, tries to balance a zucchini on her head while picking vegetables in the garden at Primrose School of Legacy in Omaha on July 17, 2012.


With about two-thirds of Nebraska in extreme to exceptional drought, I visited Sargent, Neb., farmer Kasey Tobias as he salvaged what he could of his withered crops and dried pastures. Read more about the drought here.

Cattle wander into a dried-up watering hole in Kasey Tobias’ pasture in Sargent, Neb., on July 25, 2012.


I really enjoyed photographing the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. With athletes at the top of their field and great emotion on display, it was fun to watch each night’s competition. It was even more fun to see those same athletes compete in the London Olympics a few weeks later.

Ryan Lochte swims the butterfly leg of the men’s 200 meter individual medley to place second with a time of 1:54.93, which was .09 behind winner Michael Phelps, during the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials at the CenturyLink Center on  June 30, 2012.


The Nebraska football team pulled out some amazing comebacks this year.  It all started with a big loss at Ohio State, after which head coach Bo Pelini said the team needed to win out the remainder of the regular season.

Nebraska’s Kenny Bell, left, goes to the turf with the hands of Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier in his helmet after a long run at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 6, 2012.

And win out, they did. Not counting the Big Ten Championship or the Capital One Bowl, of course.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) celebrates as time runs out against Michigan State. The Huskers won 28-24 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., on Nov. 3, 2012.


Other World-Herald photo staff members’ photos:
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — James R. Burnett
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — Mark Davis
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — Chris Machian
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — Matt Miller
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — Alyssa Schukar
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — Kent Sievers
2012 OWH Year in Pictures — Ryan Soderlin

Rebecca Gratz

About Rebecca Gratz

Originally from Ohio and a graduate of Ball State University, I moved to Nebraska to join the World-Herald staff in 2004. As a photojournalist, I'm privileged to meet interesting people, learn new things and travel around the country. Whether I'm walking knee-deep in floodwater, kneeling on the sideline of a Husker football game or flying with the Nebraska Air Guard to Germany, my goal is always to tell the story with photos.
This entry was posted in Viewfinder, Viewfinder - carousel, Viewfinder - Featured, Viewfinder archive and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.