On May 20, like most of my colleagues, I went on auto pilot. I had a job to do, and no emotions, although they were high, were going to slow me down.
I admit I had a quick cry when I learned my Moore home had been spared by the storm, and I had a second cry when my mom called to see if I was OK. But from then on out, it was all business all the time. When I would get a little emotional, I heard the words of a crusty editor I once had: “You can never let them see you cry.”
I’ve always been an easy crier — just ask my older brother. He was always in awe of how fast I could whip up some tears on the way to tell mom about his latest offense. The older I get, the more it seems I’ve been able to get a handle on the waterworks. But not on Tuesday.
During the luncheon, news clips were shown of Plaza Towers Elementary School immediately following that massive tornado. Those images are burned in most of our minds forever.
Intermingled with the news footage were behind-the-scene clips of television journalists showing emotion after discovering the grim news that there were children inside that hollowed-out building. It showed those journalists, often depicted as cold and heartless, having emotions.
It was hard to sit at a table with people I’d just met and show a side of myself that was real. Another thing we journalists try to do when we are at luncheons is not embarrass ourselves. We try to use the correct fork and not reach across the table for the butter. And, in general, we prefer not to cry in front of strangers.
Leaving that luncheon, I felt so exposed. I cried on a Tuesday afternoon, in public. Around people I’d just made small talk with. They saw me be real. And, in reality, they saw me be a journalist because we are people. We have emotions. We are not cold-hearted and we have feelings, too.