For a year and a half, I’ve been getting to know my new city a disaster at a time.
Here are four stops you’re not going to find on any Oklahoma City segway tour.
And I’ll spare you the details!
I’ve learned that when Mark asks, “What’d you do today?” he actually doesn’t want to know. That’s why reporters talk reporter talk with other reporters in our own special little reporter language.
It’s the same at places like cop shops, hospital break rooms, fire departments and the morgue.
I have a good friend from my last outlet. We give each other a ring now and again to talk industry talk. He covered Sandy Hook when Eli was in the hospital. That’s why I really tried to hold it together when he called to congratulate Mark and I, having spotted on Twitter that I was out on maternity leave. I could tell he was looking for some good news, excited to talk about a new kid. Eli is great news — but we were in the hospital and Eli had a deadly disease…so….yeah. My friend was positive. He seemed to recall a friend of his with CF. The friend went somewhere Ivy for college, joined a jazz band and also became a wildly successful business person. He assured me he did more in just his early years than most people do in a lifetime. The CF didn’t stop him.
Sandy Hook is almost too terrible to believe. My friend is from the town. His daughter goes to school two miles from where the massacre happened. In fact, as the media swarmed, he walked inside a restaurant to interview the locals.
“Why don’t you just go home?” the woman asked him.
“I am home.” he said.
Best comeback ever.
National media get so annoying when disaster strikes your hometown. I learned this first hand, when they were given special celeb tours while we were getting kicked off of public streets in Moore, while trying to gather news for our community after a tornado struck our community.
Even so, I mixed it up with a national TV producer while sitting outside of Moore City Hall. I had been chasing the medical examiner spokeswoman. I was exhausted. Sat down on a bench. Sighed a sigh to end all sighs.
We started chatting, recognizing we were both media. Instantly, we discovered the other was a smart ass. An amiable smart ass!
“Ugh, you national media, bragging about your exclusives! It’s too much!”
“Actually,” he said conspiratorially, referencing a special tour of the hardest-hit disaster zone, “I’m the one who set that up.”
All he had to do was name drop the famous anchor and say what the famous anchor wanted.
He was just doing his job. Just like I was doing mine. The big guys have the star power. It’s just how it is.
“Today, though. What’s the story?”
He was looking for the next story.
“The story? It’s the people,” I said.
I told him about the Oklahoma standard. It’s the get-up-and-go people have after disasters here. They pick up, and they help their neighbors. Disasters happen here again and again — wildfires, tornadoes.
Then there’s the 1995 bombing.
A lot of people I work with here covered it. They saw terrible things. One hundred sixty eight violent deaths, the work of a terrorist’s bomb. And the whole city picked itself backed up again. The city moved forward, its people helping one another along the way. The bombing left a scar that has been turned into a beautiful memorial downtown. It’s a shared experience that binds the people here together.
The national producer wasn’t too interested in my post-tornado Oklahoma standard pitch.
He waved it off.
“How about the dead animals at the farm down the road?” I offered.
That he could do.
We went our separate ways.
I caught the medical examiner’s office spokeswoman in the parking lot of city hall for the latest update on the number of dead at the morgue.
At my office, we spent weeks find out out who these people were before their lives were snuffed out by the monster.
So, no, I don’t go home and divulge the details of my day over the dinner table or to my family members or friends.
You really don’t want to know what mommy was up to today, children!
That’s OK. A little mystery can’t hurt.
I go home and I hug my little people tight. Every day, a new story, a new reminder: Life can change in a moment.