A few posts ago, I said “if the place where you currently are becomes the place to be, then you have a birds eye view and not to mention the inside scoop of a story.” When I said this, I was not thinking that I would ever be as close to a breaking news story as I was the day that Pope Francis was elected. I did not know, however, that such a story would LITERALLY fall into my lap today.
Since today was Easter Sunday, I was in the kitchen helping my mom make dinner around 1p.m. In the middle of making the au gratin potatoes, my family heard a loud boom accompanied by the ground around our neighborhood shaking. Immediately, I thought it was something in our basement, like our dryer breaking, or one of the pipes bursting.
Not wasting any time, my dad walked outside to see if a tree or something big had fallen. We knew we were not the only ones that had heard and felt something since we saw all of our other neighbors coming to their front doors as well. It took us awhile to figure out what had happened, and it did not hit us until we looked down our street, and saw that part of the woods in our neighborhood was on fire.
My dad and another group of our neighbors took off down the street to see if they could do anything to help. My mom stayed behind to call 911. Being a journalism student, I knew that I had to get to get footage of this, so I flew out the front door with phone in hand, but no shoes on.
At first, we had no idea what had caused the blaze. After further inspection of the fire, however, we soon realized that we were dealing with a plane crash after seeing the tail up in a tree. The plane had taken off from Wilkesboro earlier this afternoon, and had experienced engine trouble. We think the pilot was attempting to land the plane either in a nearby grassy, open area, or the nearby airport. Unfortunately, the engine completely failed before they arrived.
Thankfully the plane landed behind the row of houses across the street from me, narrowly missing several houses. One of our neighbors was actually home when the plane crashed, and caught a glance of it before it exploded. After the explosion, it was not even three minutes after the crash that the police and firefighters arrived, zooming down our street at 80mph.
It also was not very long before every news station in the area was cramming for a spot to get footage of the crash. Due to police lines, however, the crews were not allowed anywhere near the immediate crash site. As close as they could get was down and across the street a bit, making it extremely difficult to get true footage of the crash.
Being a journalist, I was mystified as to why the news crews were not talking to anyone. I don’t know if people were just not thinking of talking, or they didn’t know what to say. I took the initiative, however, and talked to just one reporter, hoping that if the interview came from someone who was both a witness and a journalist, the story would not be spun out of proportion.
Being on the other side of the interview though was definitely a different experience. I can only count on one hand the number of times the tables have been turned on me for interviews, and because of the circumstances, the experience was even more interesting. The questions they asked were nowhere near specific because they had not released any information yet. Though generic, the news crew assured me that it was extremely helpful, especially since I gave them permission to use both my dad’s and my photo of smoke billowing over our house.
The rest of the afternoon was a series of finishing up Easter dinner, and going down the street to see if there was any new news. After my interview, quite a few more crews came, but none even asked to talk to anyone. There were also the people that just came by to look as you get with any situation like this. They still have not released much information on the crash, but just being on the inside scoop of this story has been enough for me.
After working for a number of publications, I know that I am nowhere near cut out for the breaking news world. I do not have the patience for it, or the concentration. Today’s drama, however, let me know that even in the most hectic of situations, it is totally possible to be both professional and a witness. I did not go all out and gather quotes and such as I should have, but I did know how to talk to people, and how to empathize with the media. This might not have been the most ideal of situations since I had a personal bias. This experience though has made me realize that whatever part of Journalism I go into, it is exactly what I want to do.