Thursday, September 8
Butcher, Baker, Etc.
First and foremost, let me say that I could not have imagined the destruction and sheer human tragedy all around us. This is disaster on a scale that is difficult to imagine. A New York National Guard soldier interviewed by Benita & Jason said it best today. It's not destroyed. It's gone. Unbelievable.
Having said that, this entry is about my own experiences today. Benita & Jason went up in a Blackhawk helicopter today with the Guard. I was supposed to accompany them on the flight. The RV that Alpin Haus has so generously given us to use is parked in a relatively secure location with other news crews in the area and a Tennessee National Guard patrol stationed one block away. It looked like I could lock it up and leave with them. That's when "Dickie" showed up. We were the first people he saw, so he came banging on the door of the RV, wondering what we were doing in the parking lot of his warehouse. Why didn't we ask? Well, we arrived at this location well after midnight, there were other news crews here and the only other people around were Military Police patrols. "Dickie" wanted us out of here and he also wanted the NBC News operation to go.
Benita & Jason left to cover the story. That's our job. Suddenly, I had another job. I talked to "Dickie" and he agreed to let us stay if our company would fax something that would release him from liability if we were injured. OK....but there's no fax machine. He has no fax. He has no phone. He has no home. And his warehouses are not in great shape, either. After consulting with our station, I wrote something up that said we were releasing him from liability. I signed it, handed him a business card & that seemed to be that. I guess I'm a lawyer now.
It wasn't long after that when "Sonny" showed up. For a small fee, he was willing to empty the waste water from the RV and re-fill our fresh water tanks. I helped him empty the tanks. He helped me open the locked storage compartments on the RV. (Apologies to the Alpin Haus folks. The key is broken off inside one of the locks.) I guess I'm a sanitation engineer now.
After "Sonny" did his business, I went back into the suddenly very warm RV. The air conditioning was off. We were running power from the WHEC-TV live truck to our vehicle and, apparently, we tripped a circuit breaker in their truck. Fifteen minutes of investigation and sweat...lots of sweat....it's HOT....fixed the problem. I guess I'm an electrician now.
Once the power was back, I set up the laptop computer I'm using right now and the portable editing equipment we are using to edit our stories. I am NOT going to pretend that I'm an I.T. guy now, but I was at least able to get things working.
Benita & Jason have just returned. We have about 90 minutes to edit our stories for the 5, 5:30 and 6:00 newscasts. At last! I'm a producer again! I would still really, really like to get up in a Blackhawk helicopter...someday.
--ERIC HOPPEL, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER