Saturday, September 22, 2012

Under Fire

"Look, I think this conversation is over," I project tartly into my phone to the cagey women on the other end, "You've got to tell me something, otherwise how can I help anyone," the tenor of my voice raises slightly as I prepare to click her off forever.  The tone of my conversation is uncharacteristic of the way I tend to treat people with information, or, for that matter people in general, and on this day as I fold myself into a cramped television live truck, swatting wildly and futilely at an aggressive horde of black flies bouncing, with quick succession of my face, I'm simply not in the mood.

Outside the aging, white news truck, a world of chaos is whipping wildly around me.

Police are, like that pack of flies, swarming around a subsidized apartment complex in Kaysville, Utah, hunting for a suspected gunman, who has just shot a man half a dozen times.  The suspect is considered dangerous, and likely injured.   Just an hour earlier a pair of maintenance men are moving a refrigerator, and get into a verbal altercation with a man who, for some reason, pulls out a gun and unloads it into the chest of Steve Bailey, a beloved handy man, who hums gospel music as he tinkers with the apartment water heaters, and holds a Monday bible study for the residents of this apartment complex in Davis County.

The man who allegedly pulled the trigger is barricaded in his apartment as police surround him, tightening a human noose around his small box in the middle of acres of identical, small boxes.

The woman breathing into her receiver, has a nugget of information, I know it, and she wants to tell it.  She has called our TV station, I believe, with a small correction about the address or the name of the apartment units.  Her number is relayed to me, "She doesn't want to be on camera or anything, but give her a call,"  The assignment editor tells me.

"Hello?" she says as if I might be a bill collector or an ex-boyfriend who types star 69 into his smart phone in an effort to anonymously stalk his former love.

"Hi, this is Chris Jones with 2News," I coo gently, an attempt to calm a woman who is already on edge.  "Oh, uh.  Hi?" she says regretting that she ever recited her digits to the indifferent man at the television station.

"Hi, I understand you might have seen something," I ask, not knowing if that is true.

 "Five minutes Chris Jones, five minutes," the producer barks into my earpiece, warning me that my deadline for the 5 PM newscast is fast approaching.

"Uh, I really don't know anything, I just want to get the word out that the family of Steve is going to need help," she sputters, eager to click down the hand receiver.

"Ok, I understand, did you see anything," I press, "Well, some kids saw something, I didn't, but really I just want you to tell the viewers that Steve has a family," repeating her bullet points,

"Three minutes, Chris Jones, 3 minutes for Chris Jones," the producer urges, noticing she doesn't see me in front of the camera.

"Ok I get that," I frown, as a fly makes an aggressive play for my right nostril, "So If you could just say something about that," she says

"Look, you haven't told me anything! You gotta tell me something, otherwise we are wasting time!"  I bark, as I impatiently glance at my watch.

"Ok, ok!" followed by a long pause, "Hello!" I announce, assuming she's hung up, "Steve has kids, Ok!" she releases, "they are here in my house right now, they watched as their father was shot." she blurts out the information, spilling it like a tired, earthen dam, battered by a wall of unstoppable water.

"Oh."  I say quietly, and with a bit of embarrassment in my voice.  "I'm sorry, I get it now, I see why you were so reluctant, I'm sorry," I confess.

She tells me how the boys 9 and 11 were playing nearby as an unhinged gunman blathered angrily, at their daddy, then blasted him with a handgun.

She tells me how she calmed the boys, how they are watching cartoon right now, cartoons I can hear jauntily and cheerfully bouncing in the background.  I recognize the common whistle, as the coyote, or other animated animal falls and flails toward the ground or pavement.

I ask if I may use the information she gives me, she agrees, and I gallop in front of the camera, with some startling, and unsettling new facts.

In the next few hours, the woman will call me periodically, giving me updates on SWAT movement, or the moods of the children.  In turn, I relay to her the condition of the handy man, and the mood outside her sealed off apartment complex.

We'e bonded into An odd, interpersonal network, forged under the pressure of violence.

No comments:

Post a Comment