Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Worst Good Friday

When I heard tornadoes were swooping through central Tennessee, I knew my old sensei wouldn't be far behind. Then a stream of Facebook updates confirmed it: Andy Cordan was on the ground in Murfreesboro. The following account is that of a sole news gatherer operating on adrenaline and muscle memory. Is it any wonder I used to try snatching the pebble from his hand?

Friday starts with my 125 pound gas grill flipping upside down on my deck outside my bedroom window at 4am. I thought it was SWAT setting off a flash bang grenade - executing a search warrant. 6 hours later, I am driving into the heart of the animal. Rain lashing my windshield.I am alone. Dangerous. The car is rocking back and forth as my tires hydroplane at 70 mph. This is a true set back for the VJ system. where's my boy Al when I need him. I have one hand on the steering wheel. One hand on my cell phone. My third hand is holding the camera. Yes - my third hand. Have you ever chased a tornado by listening to four weathercasters storm- track? Welcome to the Merry Go Round Ride of Insanity...

After driving down I-65 twice, to the Dyer Observatory once, and through Cool Springs. I finally get on 840 East to Murfreesboro. I get as far as the I-24 exit. Cars are stacked a mile long. Two dozen THP cars are racing up the shoulder. Fire trucks are blaring down country roads. Cell phones don't work. People are shell shocked and it feels, at least for a moment like the world is coming to an end. The sky is still angry.

A Murfreesboro cop yells at me to get my car out of the road. I drive through the road block figuring he can't leave his post and I can always tell him i didn't hear what he said. I drive to the Blackman community. Trees are tooth picks. Roofs are stripped clean. Roads are impassable. I walk through a swamp of mud and 3 inches of water. I get to a woman with a muddy face crying in a truck. She is petting her little dog....she starts to cry. She tells me about praying to god and watching her television swirl over her head as the roof flew off to munchkin land. She tells me that is the worst Good Friday but also the best Good Friday. "God protected us" she will say over and over.

I want to take my video back to the station to get it on the air, but dryer people order me to stay put and wait for a live truck that is still caught in all that traffic I have fought and cheated and lied my way through. I drive over a curb and down a one way street. I am running over metal and bricks and how my tires don't shred I don't know. I end up parking at a BP station and lugging all my gear half a mile to the live truck.

Within minutes I am on live TV for as long as I can talk. I don't know a damn thing about this part of town, but as most of you know I can talk, so I start spewing. Cars are upside down. Buildings torn apart. People look like zombies. I'm sopping wet and I keep talking. Live shot after live shot. I can't see any of the coverage, but I hear it in my earpiece. it sounds to me like the old News 2 showed up for this bad boy. All in all, I'm beat...Happy Easter all. --- Andy Cordan

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