Sunday, May 24, 2009

Where were you when?

There are certain moments in life that cause you to pause, and reflect. Moving away from home, for instance. Saying goodbye to someone you love. Realizing you lost your iPod. again.

Today I’m having one of those moments. Today I turn 30.

30. 30? 30! 30…

The day I was born, I’m told, a crew from the local news arrived at the hospital to shoot a story. My mom and her sister, whose due dates were separated by 2 months, had given birth just hours apart, in the same hospital room, wearing the same department store pajamas. Some producer from Channel 12, I suppose, decided this would be of interest to the local folks. I’m sure he also decided that Phoenix was experiencing a slow news day.

And so, among the very first people I met when I came to earth were a reporter and a camera crew. I’ve often wondered if this explains why I love television news, and why my most poignant childhood memories revolve around the breaking of some great story.

January 28, 1986. Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.

When I arrived at my first grade class that morning, something wasn’t right. Our teacher, Mrs. Sciatto, had taken the day off. Mrs. Sciatto was a sweet old lady, and we all figured she was home sick with some sweet old lady disease.

And then, a few hours into the day, I remember our principal’s voice over the loudspeaker. Something had gone wrong with a space shuttle. People had died. One of them was a teacher.

As our substitute turned on the television (it must have been in the curriculum somewhere that 6-year olds can benefit by gazing at images of fire, debris and expressions of horror), things began to add up in my mind. Mrs. Sicatto didn’t take the day off because she was sick. Mrs. Sciatto took the day off to travel into outer space.

I must have held it together until my mom arrived to pick me up, because she said that when she did and asked how my day was, the emotions finally erupted. “Not good. Mrs. Sciatto tried to be the first teacher in space, and she exploded.”

Footage. Wow.

October 16, 1987. Baby Jessica.

The next story I vividly remember watching was the 58 HOUR rescue of Jessica McClure, the toddler who fell down the well in Texas. I didn’t watch all 58 hours, but just enough to develop an overwhelming childhood fear of falling into a well. Would have been nice of someone to tell me there are no wells in suburban Glendale.

June 17, 1994. White Ford Bronco Chase.

I don’t just remember watching OJ evade police, I can actually recall what I was wearing.

It was the day I returned home from Girl’s Camp, where we were given white t-shirts emblazoned with pink sheep and the words “EWE are special!” The shirts were fine within the confines of the forest, but not when stopping at McDonalds on the way home. I was 15 and mortified.

OJ’s surrender and trial were of particular interest to me, as just one year earlier I had named him my hero in a graduation speech. It wasn’t just his life on the line. It was also my reputation.

August 31, 1997. Death of Princess Diana.

The People’s Princess died the night I arrived in Provo for my freshman year at BYU. I never felt any connection to Lady Di, except that Elton John said she lived her life like a candle in the wind, and that’s exactly how I felt walking to 8 am classes during my first real winter.

July 16, 1999. Death of JFK Jr.

When John John’s plane was first reported missing at about 3 am, I was awake. In fact, I was at work.

I worked at KBYU TV throughout college. Every semester, my boss recruited people to work the dreaded “overnight shift” (midnight to 6 am). Every semester I vowed I would never work it again, and every semester I found myself volunteering to work it anyway. (Some people never learn. I am one of those people.)

The rule was, that while at work you could only watch KBYU TV. That was the rule. But anyone who thinks it’s possible to stay awake all night watching a 6-hour Lawrence Welk marathon, can think again. That night I was tuned to CNN.

By about 4 am I needed to discuss, so I called Arizona and woke up my mom. A 4 am phone call, just to analyze Camelot’s latest chapter. That she was more than happy to, is another reason I love my mom.

September 11, 2001. 9/11.

In the fall of 2001 I graduated college and got my first real news job. Well, internship. At KUTV, Salt Lake’s CBS affiliate. Finally, my start at being on the disseminating end of breaking stories.

Cue irony.

When I first got the job, in August, I met with my boss and had a conversation that went something like this:

Boss: Welcome to KUTV (or something to that effect)
Me: Thank you (or something to that effect)
Boss: We brought you on board to perform menial tasks that no one else is willing to do. Also, you won’t be getting paid (I think he said it more nicely than that)
Me: Awesome.
Boss: Any questions?
Me: Yes, actually. Would it be okay if I took just one day off? Next month? My sister is coming into town…
Boss: What day?
Me: September 11th.
Boss: Should be fine. Hope for a slow news day. Ha Ha
Me: Ha Ha Ha
Boss: Ha Ha
Me: Ha
Boss: Ha.


I slept in that day. My sister woke me up when the first tower was hit, and I watched live as the second went down, in my pajamas, with my nephew in my lap.

The biggest story of my lifetime. The one day I requested off. Granted, my assignment probably would have been BYU student reaction to canceled classes. But still.

At the time I was struck by the irony. But looking back now, I actually see the experience as a nice foreshadowing of my life today. At 30. Minus the sleeping in part.

For those who read this far (and I will not presume there are many of you), Where were YOU when?? Pick one and share!
It's one of my favorite things to learn about people. In fact, you can consider it my 30th birthday present.

That, or I like cash.

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