It’s rare that you’ll ever read a blog from me about my experiences while working my day job at CBS. I’m usually too busy driving to distant locations, gathering interviews and b roll shots, editing under the gun, exporting the timeline sequence minutes before we go on TV to feed back to the station via satellite or microwave truck and finally rushing out to the live camera location to report the story to our viewers. But on this day as I stood in awe at the shear power of what Mother Nature had done to the small town called Monson in western Massachusetts, I was compelled to try to shoot and tweet some Droid photos between electronic news gathering with my Sony XDCam 700 and my reporter Karen Anderson @karenreports. We were in such a frenzy to find three good stories, shoot them as quickly as we could and drive back to our satellite truck a few miles away to edit them and go live, I hardly had time to set up my tripod for a few solid locked down telephoto shots. Most of what I shot ended up handheld. It was frustrating to witness heart wrenching moments all around us and not have the time to pick and choose. All I could think about was how I wished I could have pulled out my Canon DSLR and slider like photojournalist Dan Chung had done in Japan on his piece: Tsunami aftermath. But I knew better. It would be impossible under these TV news time constraints to do anything other than the run and gun shooting style, grab what we could as fast as we could and split. There were stories to be told all around us here in Monson, so we just shot into high gear and started interviewing people.
Neither Karen or I were mentally prepared for what we were about to see on Bethany Street when we finally got there on foot carrying the heavy gear through road blocks and downed power lines. It reminded me in a way of my 911 coverage years earlier at Ground Zero in NYC. You cannot imagine how mammoth the actual damage is at a scene like this from just watching TV or seeing photographs. It’s really larger than life when you witness firsthand a five bedroom home blown off its foundation and set down right next door in a giant pile of broken rubble while the home adjacent to that remains unscathed. And this went on for blocks all over the neighborhood. It feels like you are in the middle of a disaster film on a Hollywood movie set.
We found two tornado victims who were willing to go on camera with us and a third who our colleagues reporter Paul Burton and photojournalist Tom Matteo were able to find. All three stories were very compelling and showed the terrible loss suffered by each of them. The pieces also displayed the resolve these people exhibited and the will to rebuild their lives in the face of this disaster. We cut a quick piece for our 4pm show using one victim, another one for 5pm using our second victim and a piece combining all three subjects for the 6pm show which can be seen here: The Story of Monson
On a brighter note… later in the evening on the night of the tornadoes,