Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Working on frivolity during tragedy

At work, I always have what the AP calls "the A wire" open on our internal network on the computer. The A wire carries all national stories. They are in black except if stories are marked "urgent" or are news alerts, they are in red. On Monday, I saw a quick news alert that said 1 person killed and 20 others wounded in a shooting at Virginia Tech. There was one before that that said 1 person killed, 8 wounded. I hate to say it, but I didn't think much except how fortunate it was that only 1 person died. Then less than 30 minutes later, I saw another headline in red that said "21 dead, 20 wounded." And well...you know what the final numbers were. The shock of seeing those stats change. I was horrified and in disbelief.

I felt silly working on my assignment for the day: Last week, our New York City bureau covered a Queens couple who planned to take the longest taxi ride of their lives by hailing a cab tomove to Sedona, Ariz. It ran under Odd News. It got a lot of attention from New York press and media in other countries. At first, we were just going to arrange for a photographer to shoot them as they arrived in Sedona. But then the NYC bureau asked us to follow up with the couple, Bob and Betty Matas, as soon as they reached Sedona. Well, guess who had the fun task of interviewing them on the phone from Phoenix? As people were trying to get information about the carnage at Virginia Tech, I was speaking to the Matases about how their cats, Cleopatra and Pretty Face, survived the road trip. Anyway, I realize that was my job and this sort of story was interesting to people. But, I just had the Virginia Tech community in the back of my mind as I was working on it.

I am not exaggerating about the interest in Bob and Betty, however. Simply Google my name with "taxi cab," and you'll see my story ran in a lot of major newspapers and I made Yahoo!'s front page. Here's a link:
NYC couple complete 2,500-mile cab ride
And I have to say, quirky is fun to work on. This was figuratively and literally an assignment off the beaten news path.

BTW, I was one of those Asian Americans who, upon first hearing the gunman described as a young man of Asian descent, said "Oh crap!" Not that I would enjoy finding out he was of some other nationality or race. It's just, I think for Asians living in the U.S., we are used to being underrepresented. To be publicly "represented" in one of the worst ways imaginable, you can't help but feel a bit of shame, as though this psycho is a distant relative. And I too worry somewhat about backlash in the form of hate crimes against Asians. But at the end of the day, "we" have nothing to feel bad about because "we" are not responsible. And any sane person of any creed, race, religion or nationality will know that too.

1 comment:

jen azelma said...

Wow. I see what you mean about working on frivolity in the wake of Virginia Tech. But perhaps it is good to have something to take our minds off the tragedy, even if briefly. Thanks for sharing! And yes, I totally had the same thought as you with the whole "oh crap" it's an Asian young man who did this and I hope there won't be a backlash.