Friday, September 28, 2012

Giggles & Gunshots.

I didn't realize a night that started with wine and socializing would end in bloodshed in front of our TV station.
Me and Mara at the Equality Utah Allies Dinner.
 My socialite bestie Mara invited me to attend the prestigious annual Equality Utah Allies Dinner on behalf of the Girl Scouts (who are now public about being LGBT allies). The dinner attracted its biggest crowd in its history - 1,500 people, to be exact - perhaps due to its keynote speaker, Former Utah Governor and GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman (his wife, Mary Kaye - perky-faced and dressed to kill - also spoke), but also due to Utah's "progression" (according to E.U. officials) when it comes to anti-discrimination laws (one speaker said 19 LGBT-friendly pieces of legislature passed, "without us even doing anything").

Mary Kaye Huntsman stands by her hubby: Keynote speaker, and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.
Mara and I found a few of our usual social-function friends, and made some new ones. As I was sipping my first drink, a bubbly, energetic partygoer popped up in front of me and proclaimed:

"AMANDA! I love you on Channel 2! You are so happy and energetic! I love when you fill in for Casey!"

I wore my surprise openly as I posed for photos and shook hands with his friends.

The convivial vibe continued throughout the dinner, which was peppered with passionate speeches by community activists and politicians. And though I took to heart their moving speeches, which inspired me to be more active in being an LGBT ally, the dinner soon turned into a gigglefest for me, thanks to Mara.

I have this figurative "button," that - when pushed - incites INCESSANT laughter, which I literally cannot stop. Mara found it, and pushed it HARD, with a theatrical, whispered delivery of "white girl problems." As she delivered each line into my ear (similar to these HERE), my chortles grew more and more painful, and not just for me. A few folks around us shot annoyed glances our way, and one person even told me to be quiet. Thanks, Mara.

Mara and I snuck out after the majority of the speeches, starved for dessert. After snagging a handful of petit fours as we walked out the door, I dropped her off at her Range Rover so I could pick up my man after his live shot.

I THOUGHT MY NIGHT WOULD END THERE.

As I was driving through downtown to pick Chris up, I saw that the city blocks surrounding Main Street were cordoned off. Caution tape now stood between my car and my TV station. At a stoplight, I made eye contact with one of the military-like men in camo strapping a gun to his thigh and fastening a bullet-proof vest on his torso. I blindly blazed through the hubbub, dialing the station to find out what was going down.

A producer, in a voice that relayed disbelief, calmly explained to me: "A man called our station at 9:10 tonight, telling us he was right outside our studios with a bomb."

I made it to Chris just as he grabbed his mic and readied himself in front of the camera. But before he went live, he picked up his phone and left his on-air position to watch the monitor in the live truck. Soon, he jogged over to me, and said through the driver's side window, "This bomb situation - we're going down there to try and go live. Follow us."

This was DURING the live show, deadline on high, and he didn't HAVE to do this. Turns out, the producer still wanted him to do his original story, but he insisted he go to the breaking news. His ability to make sound decisions under pressure is like no one's I've ever seen.

My Chris Jones compelling viewers with his live report from the bomb threat scene.
The live truck wiggled its way into the midst of the scene. Chris and photog Mike got live in minutes; Chris, rattling off a dialogue that was calm, informative, and descriptive - despite how little information he had to go off. Friends texted and Facebooked me to say they were watching him deliver his smooth report.

The newscast kept going past endtime, in an effort to keep folks at home updated. Chris went live three or four times. Between one of the first ones, he jaunts over to me, mic in-hand and IFB in-ear, and says, "Hi, I'm on TV. Want to kiss me?" He gives me a kiss and jogs back to his spot in front of the flashing lights.

When they switched locations, Chris asked me if I wanted to jump in the live truck with them. I did, and for two hours, was glued to the images on the live truck's monitor, and the crackly audio delivering Mark Koelbel's calm voice through speakers. Because the suspect was literally right in front of Ch. 2's studio, the cops told the crew to turn off their set lights and move away from the windows. So, the staff broadcast non-stop from the kitchen, shooting eerie video of the suspect from the darkness.

Chris had just finished another live shot when we heard a loud popping sound, that echoed between the office buildings. GUNSHOT, we all thought.

Wow. Just seconds before, we were watching the dude stand calmly on the transit stop in front of our station, fiddling with a bag, but all in all, displaying no signs of aggression.

Now, he is a body on the ground. Taken away by ambulances, the cops confirm an officer was involved in the shooting, but he's only injured. They won't confirm what the suspect had in his backpack, but the bomb squad was definitely taking care in investigating. Still, this morning, we don't have a lot of answers, but the feeling of the night resonates as I type this in the newsroom.

Driving home, Chris' adrenaline was still going as he recapped the evening in his head.

"That was fun," he said. 

And recapping my entire night - even though I am reeling from only a few hours of sleep - I think about the giggly dinner, and the rush of seeing my man excel at his passion, and I have to agree.


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