There are a few times when I’ve almost lost it on the air. The first was 9-11. My brother was in Tower 4, across the street from Towers 1 and 2 which both came down. I was working as a news anchor at FOX29 here in Minneapolis. The minute I saw the first plane crash into WTC Tower 1, I got dressed and ran to the newsroom. We didn’t hear from my brother all day. There was no cell service and my family didn’t know until that evening that he was okay. He walked through the dust all the way uptown in the streets of Manhattan until he found a landline and called us to say he was alive. I interviewed him live on the air during our 9 p.m. newscast the evening of September 11th, 2001. My voice cracked when I heard his; I struggled to hold back tears onscreen—but it was my job to hold it together. It was a hard day personally and professionally on every level of the psyche.
The next time I nearly broke down on the air was after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It happened around 9:35 a.m. on December 14th, 2012. 26 people were murdered (plus the shooter), 20 of them children. I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but my kids were the same ages as those killed. At first it was a news story: active shooter in a school building. But watching those parents arrive and hear the news that their babies were dead, then seeing many of them collapse on live TV—it was almost too much for me to watch and then report to you. I did choke up; my voice cracked and I fought back tears. Then I explained to anyone listening to WCCO Radio that morning that I, too, was overcome with grief, sadness, and disbelief. I was failing at holding it together. It was another hard day.
Last Wednesday, Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick was killed. Shot brutally in the street while doing his job. You and I are still grieving for him and his family.
You’d think I would be desensitized, jaded, hardened. But holding it together while reporting senseless tragedies seems to be getting harder. After all these years of viewing suffering from a front-row seat, I feel it acutely. I also am starting to release the need to hold it together and want to just experience it with you. That feels more natural to me. That microphone between us is not a suit of armor. I now prefer to think of it as walkie-talkie for you and me, a two-way communication device. Last Wednesday evening after the reporting was done, the suspect was in custody, funeral arrangements were being made for Officer Patrick, and you and I were left to make sense of it all. We can’t, of course—it makes no sense at all, but we did get to talk. I want to thank you for calling me, for talking to me, for sharing it all. I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring you information, but I’m even more grateful when you allow me to just feel it with you.