First responders, hospital staff and journalists: Hats off

Friday, 19 April 2013
James and I were in Kyoto when the Newtown School shooting happened. He was so kind in the way he told me the details. Kyoto is eight hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the U.S. As we were waking up, we turned on the 24 hour news networks to watch the horrific details. I felt no emotion while seeing the photos and I'm sure James wondered about my reaction.

When I was just 21 years old, I began reporting on the September 11th attacks at WATE in Knoxville (the attacks happened on my first day of employment at WATE). Not too long after that, my brother became an Army Reserve member. He was deployed to Iraq in the early days of the conflict.

At the time I was the morning anchor for WATE (filling in after another anchor quit). I would come into work in the quiet hours of dark mornings around 4:00 a.m. and open the Associated Press report of recent American casualties. My heart would pound out of my chest every morning from the time my alarm went off at 3:00 a.m. until I could read over the list and register that my last name, my brother's last name was not on the list.

While that was a relief... in a war situation you never know if the government has the names correct anyway. My brother's name not making the list didn't necessarily mean that he was safe or alive. The weak part of my bones still ache just thinking about those uncertain, anxiety-riddled days. (Dannen returned safely after amazing service where he won prestigious awards.)

Once, during those days of uncertainty when I covered the surprise visit of a soldier to his son's elementary school, I had to excuse myself to the bathroom and stand in a stall until I could breathe normally. I didn't cry but I realized that I had been holding my breath. If I continued not breathing I couldn't do my job effectively and that just wouldn't work. The intense feeling of shock passed in about 5 minutes and I successfully filed a story that day.

I've been out of TV news reporting for two years and today, I feel real sorrow and anger for people living in Boston. The first responders and journalists on scene now are doing the best they can to make sense of what has happened.


Listening to a live report on the radio where the officials were taking questions, I could tell that the reporters are tired, on edge and frustrated. They're human too and I hope those who love them remember to help them cope too. Police officers, hospital workers and journalists don't outwardly show it but they are also impacted by the traumatic scenes around them. Their reality is dramatic, dangerous and deadline means there is no escape.

Hats off to those in our communities that attempt to pursue justice and protect residents. Hats off also to those who provide information about those important efforts. 

1 comment

Meenu Arvind said...

It is awesome to read your blog. You really inspire and I am proud to have met you.

Yes, any kind of such incidents haunt people. It is devastating and I appreciate the courage shown by those who are there reporting, helping...

It needn't be even these man made disasters, it is also those social evils that happen everyday-against children, against women....

Denae, it was really inspiring to read your experience as a reporter... So much to learn from you! I remember the Sep 11 attacks and I was shell shocked too..(i was in school).... I have been hearing a lot of such news(the recent one, a rape victim, just 5 years-brutal!)Just today, i wrote about that ! Anyways, i wanted to tell that its great that you have such a poise to handle even those news at a very young age...