Thursday, July 11, 2002

The Importance of Events in a Small City

Listening to The Smith's Heavens Knows I'm Miserable Now reminded me of September 1999 just before "all hell broke loose" in Jamestown. I wasn't sure how I felt about my job as a radio news reporter, a long-term relationship was crumbling, and I was homesick. Then, on September 15th around 9PM, a sudden change. The police scanner can be a great tool for reporters if they know how to use it. Unfortunately, I chose to use the ladies' room just as the most resounding call for that year came across the scanner, "Officer Down." When I returned to the news room, I heard all sorts of commotion on the scanner, but couldn't put the pieces together as to what had happened. Fortunately, a local ecentric whose ear is glued to a scanner all day called in and blustered, "Why aren't you carrying this on the news???" "Carrying what?" I asked with some trepidation. "The police officer that was shot! He was shot! On Wescott! You better get on the ball," the caller responded. I took down the information he heard on the scanner and got about to calling all the police agencies that could possibly be involved or have information. I was mostly hung up on. I called the rest of the news team to let them know what happened. This was a huge story. I was a bit confused about why all the fuss. I waited for the guys to call me from the scene and for any other updates as I sat in the on-air studio. After we did the 11'oclock news with live-at-the-scene updates, I made my down to the crime scene. Matt, Terry (other news reporter), and I ended up hanging around for any info. until 3AM. Matt and I went home to catch a few winks. Matt went back at 5AM and I reported in at my normal time around 3pm. It was quite a night. Never experienced anything like that before or since within my career(s) of choice. I knew after the shooting that being a reporter was exactly what I wanted to do. The thing that sticks in my mind is how I underestimated the impact of the shooting of a police officer on the community. Shootings were nothing unusual in the city of Rochester and there had been officers shot there before. In Jamestown, everyone went into shock. The next time I saw this again was after September 11th. But the registering of shock was on the same level. Donations poured out for Officer Mitchell's family. The story was carried all over Western New York news stations. Three days after the shooting, my long-term significant other and I decided to part and become just friends. Looking back, I see some parallels in the two events. And it almost feels good to recognize that.

What's In Your Mail Today?

Nine months after the big anthrax scare, you hardly hear anything about the postal service and our mail. I can't even think of anyone that's microwaving their mail (still or ever), using gloves to open the mail, or is even washing their hands after opening the mail. It's amazing how much the media can raise a nation to hysteria. At the same time, I wonder if anyone who took precautions in those first few months prevented a much worse scenario for themselves. Then again, junk mail could be considered a worse scenario.

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