You know, I don't think I've ever lived anywhere with a disaster. Weird. Boo, of course, attracts disaster everywhere he goes, but me, not so much.
So I can hardly express how weird it was watching the news all night last night. Very strange. News reporters, I must conclude, are completely insane.
Channel 4 (WCCO) seemed hell-bent on driving me right round the bend - everything seemed to center on the "BUT WAIT! IT COULD STILL GET WORSE!" school of journalism. My favorite paraphrase was "fortunately the kids [from the bus, natch] are physically fine, though the psychological trauma of living through this will, no doubt, remain to be seen." Subtext: Next May, there will be a Very Special Feature® on the "survivors of the horrifying bus on the bridge incident!" I had to change the channel.
I tried 11 for a while (KARE) and they weren't bad, and since a friend of mine works for them, I try to give them a chance. They had some absolutely gripping footage of what has to be my hero of this whole event - a blond amazonian rescue worker, wearing little more than a dive singlet and what seemed to be a Kevlar vest, precariously tiptoeing through the fucking Mississippi along giant fragments of broken concrete bridge and exposed re-bar, and putting her bare hands and arms and head through the smashed windows of crushed automobiles to see if anyone was still trapped inside. (edit: She's now been identified as Shanna Hanson, a Fire Captain.
But I kept going back to FOX ultimately, if for no other reason that I first heard about there - we were looking for So You Think You Can Dance and found, well, oh so much more. Now a word about our local Fox affiliate - they weren't always a FOX affiliate. It used to be a pretty good local station with the usual line up of not terribly annoying re-runs, (the not so usual) annual high school hockey tournament coverage, and some kick-ass local news - this was the nine o'clock news in a ten o'clock news region. Robyne Robinson has been with the station for at least 15 years and a major cultural force in the Twin Cities for most of that time; and while Jeff Passolt alternately reminds me that he used to be a sportscaster when I'm not confusing him with Don Shelby from Channel 4, he's also quite credible. Boo still avers that Robyn absconded with a bunch of hats that his chorus wore in the Pride Parade one year, but I'm sure it was a misunderstanding, and really, what are you doing putting your hats in the Grand Marshall's car, anyway?
This was really fascinating coverage. Both were clearly shocked, and it was interesting to see their emotions so visibly as they presented the news. I'm not sure what was pissing Robyne off so much, but her demand to a reporter on the scene ("...your REPORT!") sounded like it should be followed up with "...or I'll KILL you!". She seemed absolutely furious with the remote reporter every time she attempted to deliver news from the scene. She also seemed on the verge of slapping Jeff most of the evening; a sentiment I must have shared at least once or twice.
Give her the benefit of the doubt; like me, she was probably frustrated with the rate of news reports trickling in from officials, and the inevitable fog of confusion and inaccuracy that surrounds a huge disaster. At least three "eye-witness" reports were credited to people "walking on the bridge" at the time, which is simply not possible unless you're one of the construction workers - there is no pedestrian route across this bridge. It's a fucking INTERSTATE FREEWAY people. Poor Robyne. Sometimes she seems to channel the entire frustration of the Twin Cities intelligentsia. Shame she has to work for FOX.
I'm sure the days ahead will be filled with annoyance and frustration with the media, (I'm looking at you, Malkin, you insane bitch) but I'm feeling pretty good today. Almost all of my friends have checked in, (and if you're local and reading this and haven't, please do. ANDY. FROSTI.) and I can't stop thinking that damn, it could have been SO much worse. Most of the lanes were closed limiting traffic on the bridge, the severe weather did NOT arrive, a huge number of people walked away with minor scrapes and bruises, which, I'm thinking is a pretty good thing. Dropping a Honda or Ford from tree-top height (65 feet!) into a river is not something they've generally designed seat belts or airbags for. There are probably some elements of this that won't sink in until I see the site; on the news it all looks so small, and this is a bridge almost three blocks long. I really am finding it difficult to comprehend.
Today, the press is full of fault-finding and report-dissecting. I don't know yet what they'll find. I do know that at least two years ago I read an article in either Harper's or the Atlantic about the crumbling and decrepit state of America's infrastructure. The recent gas explosion in New York being another symptom. The levee failure in New Orleans being still another. This is scary stuff, and I hope, really hope, that we won't find that we've been sold down the river by our government once again. If the '70's, 80's, and 90's are the best we achieved by pushing grim reality and tedious and expensive maintenance into the future, we were totally had. It wasn't THAT good.