In the course of working for a television news station, at some point you'll work on a story that leaves you a different person.
This is one of them.
For those who have read the last two posts, you know that I've never encountered a hurricane before. So needless to say, when the station told me I was being sent to the
The phrase that Kristen and myself were told constantly was, "Eat when you can, sleep when you can, and never pass up a working porcelain toilet." We quickly found out why this was the first thing we were told. When you're standing knee deep in water, you can't really take a break to go grab a burger. When a crew is busy pulling people out of a home, you can't stop to take a 15 minute breather just because the last time you were in bed was 20 hours ago. And the toilet…well, that's pretty self explanatory (and for those who need help with that, let's just say that if a hurricane takes out a city water pump station, the toilets don't flush anymore).
And little did I know that I was in for long hours and intense action. When the hurricane was slowly edging away from us, we were told that we would have 10 minutes to load up when we got the first emergency call. Ten minutes was an understatement -- it was more like six. When the squad leader came in our bunk room and told everyone to get moving, cots started flying. For a cameraman with 40 pounds of gear, getting ready isn't the easiest task. And of course that couldn't be the only challenge; thrown into the mix was having to load up in 55 m.p.h winds and buckets of rain. When we left our temporary home that night at 11, little did I know I wouldn't return until 4:30 that next day.
So what was so life changing about all of this?
First, my respect for the Texas Task Force - 1. Not that I didn't appreciate what they've done in the past, but I do have a newfound respect. When these guys leave their families to go towards potential disaster situations, they're trading comfortable beds, running water, and hot food for cots (or the backseat of a car), "showers" in a sink (or washing your face in the rain with a bar of soap), and the oh-so-delicious M.R.E's. They work in the pouring rain, and have to walk around in wet clothes for hours at a time. We've all seen the part where they rescue people on television, but you don't see everything that has happened in the last 24 hours leading up to that one event. They bust their rear ends hard to make sure they can help everyone that needs it.
Secondly, I've changed in the way I look at covering big event stories. When you work for a television station, you require internet, electricity, phone communications, and transportation. A hurricane can knock out every one of those assets in a matter of minutes. In my excitement of traveling with the task force, I neglected to come up with a game plan for when all of those elements weren't at my disposal anymore. (And here's another reason to validate my previous paragraph -- in between dealing with everything they had to, the task force crew members made sure to do what they could to try and help us out. For example, they let us hook up to their generators to charge my camera batteries, and they took us out just before the hurricane hit to find the last bit of internet before it wasn't available anymore.) Whenever the next big event hits -- and not just a hurricane -- I'll be much more ready for it.
So Hurricane Dolly has affected me, but in the good way. I'll write one final blog about all the crazy events from beginning to end including funny stories from the bunk room. But for now, I need to grab a bit to eat and catch a few Z's….eat when you can, sleep when you can….