Collecting the home video we’d just taken in of a massive brush fire was my focus when I heard our Web Director exclaim there had been a shooting and an explosion in Paris. I ignored him and concentrated on finishing writing copy on the funeral for the wife of a McDonald’s mogul, the capture of the suspect in the triple shooting near Penn Station, and several other top stories. I was almost done editing the video to match my stories when I saw our rundown go red; that means that those stories are not going to air. I glanced over at the screen and saw a crawl stating, at that time, more than two dozen people were killed and more than 100 others were being held hostage in a theater in Paris. Shocked, I looked around the newsroom and saw managers and producers scrambling to come up with a plan for our coverage. I dropped what I was doing and tried to overhear as much of their conversations as I could.
As the AP news alert flashed across computer screens in the newsroom, the horror of what was unfolding overseas hit everyone. I could hear audible shock, gasps and disbelief from seasoned news veterans who usually think we’ve seen it all; yet, this was an unfathomable event.
Shortly after one of our reporters, delivered a report for our local station, the network took over. Our managing editor then announced the President would be out in less than a half hour at 5:45 pm. Our Executive Producer flew pass me and asked me to select a bite.
As the minutes ticked down to President Obama’s speech our noon show producers, who had been in since 6:30 or 7 am, began sending out logs of bites from our CNN and ABC feeds, as well as video elements. Our 4 pm producer offered to compile elements for a reporter and the 5 and 5:30 producers took over creating a rundown for the cut-ins.
I started logging bites from our security expert when I saw ABC News’ Jonathan Karl say the President was about to speak. I grabbed my pen and jotted down the times for the best bite. Then, I turned to my computer and began laying bites on an editing timeline. I labeled them President bite one, two and three. Once that was done I sent an outlook email to everyone who needed to know that bites were ready for air. I was about to turn my attention back to logging the on set interview when our News Director began talking about the plan for the rest of the night.
I stood up, almost forgetting this was the first week of tried to walk without my cane following six back procedures at the Hospital for Surgery in three months. A sharp, searing pain ran down the back of my knees and through my calf as I struggled to reach the last desk in my cubicles so I could listen in. I heard her say five crews with reporters were scrambling to locations across the city and one was headed to Paris. My legs were tired. I’d given them a workout by going up and down stairs in the afternoon for a writing seminar. It was also close to the time I’d be at home and taking my evening muscle relaxer and pain pill. Still, I stood until I heard no one was allowed to leave without speaking to his or her supervisor. As everyone dispersed, I apologized to my co-worker, whose chair I was leaning on for support me even though he was ready to sit down. Thankfully, he told me I didn’t ever need to apologize and he offered to escort me back to my desk.
I finished the log of the on set bites then grabbed my cane to walk across the room to see how else I could be of assistance. Another writer stopped to ask why I was having difficulty walking. So I briefly explained that my autoimmune condition attacked my spine and nerves making it impossible to stand sometimes. She asked if I should go home or possibly just stay at my desk until someone needed me. I responded that I was ready to do my part despite my physical issues. Still, I hobbled back to my desk and sent an email to the 11 pm producer.
The evening show producer told me I could begin working on other news stories until I was needed for one of the updates so that’s what I did. I banged out copy on an alleged child molester, five immigrants squatting in a deployed soldier’s home and that brush fire which was the top story before the Paris attacks. I then sent two Obama bites for cut-ins before my supervisor told me to go home.
As I limped through the lobby I saw the evening pizza delivery arrive. It’s the typical food order to keep the staff fueled in case we have to work non-stop. But, I knew I wasn’t staying for that. I’d skipped lunch because of a meeting so I was hungry, tired and in excruciating pain. I felt a tinge of guilt as I got to the door to leave and saw a cameraman and our operation manager moving a cart with gear out the door; that was the cameraman going to Paris. I grabbed the door and wish them well as I headed home with a heavy heart and in stunned disbelief at the horror that occurred in the world that it’s my job to help describe to the world.