Monday, October 24, 2011

Eight Dead

My day started at 8:30am. I take home a microwave truck, so I was able to drive straight from my house in Hawthorne to downtown Los Angeles where I've been on my longest stretch ever of straight satellite truck duty covering the Conrad Murray trial.

I enjoy my job shooting news. Heck, I actually love what I do. Shooting and editing is what I consider to be my job, but I don't mind the SNG work. It's a different skill set from my usual day to day as a news photographer. The deadline pressure isn't on me when I run the truck. It's not exactly a break, but I do enjoy the change of pace.

Photo by Karen Brown

I'm usually the first to arrive at the courthouse-- well, at the SNG truck. I've been assigned to this trial for almost a month and I still haven't made it up to our 12th floor workspace.

We're mostly sending up live shots from across the street outside of the courthouse. The camera position is about 680' from the truck.

I know this because the cable reel we use to connect to the camera position is 680' long.

That's a block and a half to regular folk.

As tragic as the death of Michael Jackson was, it seemed like we put that assignment on hold. The day of the shooting down in Seal Beach out of nowhere became the top story of the day.

I'm not trying to compare tragedies, that's just the nature of breaking news.

I was instructed to pack up and move the SAT truck to the Seal Beach crime scene. It took me just over an hour to get there. I was surprised it didn't take longer, Seal Beach is not exactly close to downtown.

Once, there I popped the dish and established an uplink. There were a lot of folks from the area crowding in to get a look or to express their grief (and some rage).

We zipped through a few live shots and then the powers that be wanted to know how I was holding up. They needed me. This was about to get really interesting.

The late live shots would need an SNG operator. The early morning shows originating on the East coast would need an SNG operator. The Conrad Murray trial would need an SNG operator.

There was a time when I'd jump at the opportunity to work around the clock for some of that sweet overtime cash and also for the thrill of doing something that borders on the edge of sanity.

I'd already put in some pretty good overtime hours in the days and weeks prior.

Call me crazy, but I was actually just digging the idea of working around the clock.

It was tough and I admit by morning I was dragging.

McDonald's opened at 5am. It wasn't a healthy breakfast, but I went for the sugar rush with a mango smoothee.

As I write this, it all seems so trivial compared to the story we were covering.

When I think about it, the only way I was able to grab anything from McDonald's was because the coroner had at some point removed the bodies and the Seal Beach police had opened up the parking lot that had been closed off.

You can't help but feel the sadness. It fills the air with the sounds of sobbing, the shock and disbelief is visible in the body language of everyone at the scene.

We might not acknowledge it, but then, we tend to just live with it because it's a part of our job.

I saw the sun rise over the crime scene. We did the remainder of the work booked for us and I packed up the truck.

It was 24 hours on the clock when I left Seal Beach.

I convinced the station to just let me keep working as long as I wasn't feeling sleepy. Diet coke and a 3 Musketeers helped keep me reasonably sharp.

Nothing unusual happened for the rest of that day. I guess my marathon shift was plenty strange enough by itself.

It was 4pm by the time I got back to the station. My time on the clock (maybe let's not call it my total waking hours) was 31.5 hours.

Know what? That's not even my record.

Of course, the last time we were snowed in and didn't have a choice.

1 comment:

FlutePrayer said...

Very impressive, sir. I lived in Seal Beach just blocks from the salon for 9 years. My aunt and uncle still live there, around the corner from where the bad guy was arrested. My uncle's stylist of 25 years saw the gun when he entered and yelled, "RUN!!!!". She made it out...