The tornadoes that hit Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday were devastating. The damage to the people. The loss of life. Lives ruined.
Broadcasting during disasters is what we, as broadcasters, are supposed to do. We, the radio stations under the authority of the FCC, operate in the public’s interest. Not when it is convenient.
I know of what I am writing about. For some time around the Radio Ranch, I was known as Disaster Dan. If there was an emergency, disaster or any other dangerous situation, I was the one on the air. I have been on for floods, tornadoes, blizzards, massive power outages, national emergencies and more.
To get through the broadcast, you must stay in the moment. Remove your own personal issues with the emergency. Relay the information that you know is true and inform the listeners. It sounds simple but it is anything but easy. You need to put your needs aside. I hope that my fellow broadcasters never need to know what it’s like. I know that not all broadcasters can do it. It doesn’t make them bad broadcasters. They are just human.
I will admit to being human, but during those times, I have the ability to go into a different mode. I think it’s the same mode that fireman, I was one for some time, policemen, EMTs and others have. The instinct to run into the mess instead of running away from it. I have always admired those that can do it.
I will relay what I believe to be the worst day I have ever been on the air.
September 11, 2001. I don’t need to go into all the details of the day. We all lived it. Almost all of us. From the time of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center until 7pm that night, I didn’t live it. I was able to put my own concerns for family, friends and other Americans on hold. I needed to be the voice of calm and reason. I was.
I went home after 7 that night. I was alone. I broke down. My wife Lisa and I, just came home from picking our daughter up outside of Washington, DC. We had mentioned on our way back through Pennsylvania that we needed to go to the World Trade Center. I had been to the top numerous times. Lisa never had been to the top. My brother Joe, was and still is in the service and I was concerned about what this was going to mean to him.
I cried. I shook. I couldn’t believe what had happened.
There is no training for what those heroic people did that day. The hugeness of it is overwhelming. What I needed to do was nothing even close to what they had to do. I still shake my head over the whole experience.
For the past two days, I have been thinking about those that put others ahead of themselves. The firemen, policemen, EMTs and other emergency workers that were there to help others, Thank You. To my fellow broadcasters in Oklahoma, Thank You. Job well done.
To my fellow broadcasters that haven’t had the opportunity to broadcast an emergency like this, I hope you never need to.