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From the Field
Week Six of AMERICA FIGHTS BACK, Thoughts....
As journalists we go out and get the stories -- the facts. The attacks on New York and Washington, DC have had many of us thinking and soul-searching.
Learn about the industry from professionals working in it! Read "From The Field" for the latest happenings in the field.
Now, radio and television journalists from all over share their feelings. If you'd like to share your thoughts send them to

The white powder scare at an Arizona TV station
By Natalie Tejeda
Reporter/KYMA-TV/Yuma, Arizona
Lately the newscasts at KYMA, and those across the nation, have been full of anthrax scares. But on Monday, November 15th our own station was evacuated after a receptionist found a white powder in an envelope. We are not a large station, we have approximately 60 people working there. But for 5 hours everyone was evacuated from the building. Some were quarantined and given sponge baths, others just sat around and waited for clearance to leave or re-enter the building.

In the meantime, what was airing on our channel was the CNN feed, but with only one channel of audio playing. I work in the bureau and we were totally in the dark about the situation at our mother station. We thought there might be a problem because of what was playing on our channel. But no one was answering the phones.

When we finally did reach our general manager we were informed to not open our mail and standby in case we were able to broadcast our 6 o'clock show. At 5:40 our station was given clearance to re-enter the building and we went on air at 6. Our newscast focused on what happened at our station and I was extremely impressed at how fast our team pulled together and went to air.

The aftermath has left our front entrance closed off until lab results come back, all of our mail has to be opened in a special air tight box and everyone is being tested for anthrax exposure. In totality it seems like a malicious joke was played at our expense and at the expense of emergency crews who spent hours checking our station and employees. But in these times where real anthrax cases have popped up at major networks, we had to take every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone employed at KYMA.

First Responders
BY Phil Shuman
EXTRA Correspondent
The phone call came on my direct line at 13;52 on a Tuesday. "This is Brenda, from the Nevada Test Site, I wanted to know if you were going to order the box lunch for tomorrow. It’s $ 5.25. ". Assured it was of the highest quality, I quickly agreed… thanking her, hanging up.

Wow I thought, the world is imploding, we can’t keep deadly bacteria from killing us, the threat of more terror lingers in the air, yet our government has the lunch situation taken care of! Well, victory in small things. But let me tell you, the trip to the "Nevada Test Site’’ was well worth it, lunch and all.

For the past two years, the Feds, under the Dept. of Energy and something relatively new called the National Nuclear Security Administration, have been running a Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Response Domestic Preparedness Program. That’s a mouthful, but what it means is that there is a training ground in the vast desert about 90 miles north of Las Vegas which teaches so called ‘first responders’ how to save lives, how to respond to and deal with the chaos that follows any kind of terrorist strike. It is a most imposing and remote location. More than an hour on a chartered bus. Several security checkpoints. About as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get, it’s a sprawling chunk of land literally the size of Rhode Island that for much of the past 50 years had the distinction of being used as the one and only continental test site for nuclear bombs.

The history is impressive. I know because we watched a documentary on the site on the buses video screens on the way out. So those warning signs telling of radioactive material buried below ground?? They’re real. But since we don’t test nuclear bombs much anymore, the site’s mission was changed. Now those "first responders" from around the country, fire departments, police departments, emergency management technicians, Haz Mat teams, bomb squads etc. etc. etc. can come here for state of the art training.

They are put through various staged emergency scenarios under the expert direction of one-time soldiers, police officers, even the former Las Vegas fire chief. It is intense, it is stressful. it is totally realistic, right down to the explosion at the mock nuclear testing facility and the subsequent radiation contamination or the chemical spill from a real tanker.

They even once grew a form of anthrax here and challenged our intelligence agencies to come by and see if they could detect it in the air. And that’s just the stuff they talked about. The counter terrorism training , the special weapons teams that learn here? They won’t even acknowledge that. But let’s just say the rocky desert and mountain terrain looks a lot like what we’ve seen in the pictures from Afghanistan.

At any rate, after the Los Angeles Times did a most fascinating story on this so called ‘’boot camp’’, the phones started ringing in Vegas, and so the public relations folks thought they’d arrange a media tour for anyone who wanted to come, which is how I got there. (How else do you think we get our story ideas if not for the papers ? )

For EXTRA, this was a perfect story to supplement what our viewers have been seeing on the news, so along with ABC News, Inside Edition, some European TV outlet with a home video camera, and a few print reporters and photogs from Seattle, Denver, and San Francisco, we left for our adventure at 7; 30 am sharp.

Believe me, the government doesn’t readily welcome us so called journalists, never mind cameras, into their secret desert bases (Area 51 was just over the hills), but here they had something they wanted to publicize. Why?

First to try to increase business for their program, which already is booming in the wake of September 11th, second, to demonstrate to the public that this type of training is in fact going on so we’ll feel a little more secure, and third to do a little lobbying. Nevada’s Democratic Senator Harry Reid recently visited and was so impressed he proposed to President Bush that they increase the funding for the test site and create the first National Center for Combating Terrorism. It just might happen.

After a day on and off the bus, in and out of trailers for briefings, we spent hours in the field watching SWAT teams, paramedics, the bomb squads, and their colleagues practice for the real thing, just as news from the other side of the country that CBS and Dan Rather became the latest victims of terror were beeping on our two way pagers.

When it was over, even us cynical members of the press corp , handled with kid gloves and cared for all day long, were impressed. Which is a good thing, because the training these folks are getting today might save a life tomorrow. That’s a good thing.

And in case you’re wondering, the turkey sandwich, apple, and cookie were excellent.

Phil Shuman is a reporter for the nationally syndicated news magazine program "EXTRA". He also hosts a talk radio show on Sundays from 4 to 6pm on KABC AM 790 in Los Angeles and invites your calls.

Passing for Normal
By New Yorker Mathew Tombers

The New York Times has devoted itself to helping us understand and make sense of events that have overwhelmed us since September 11. Russia and the United States are acting like the allies they were during the Second World War and Bush is being cozy with the Chinese.

Relationships that were not possible before September 11 have become possible, an aftereffect perhaps not taken into account by Bin Laden. A commentator today said that the U.S./Russia relationship was evolving on an hourly basis in ways that would have been unthinkable six weeks ago.

The whole world is attempting to adapt to a new state and the newspapers and the radio and television are saturated with efforts to help us cope in our new state. New Yorkers, accustomed to feeling at least disliked if not hated by nearly every other American, find themselves deeply touched by the ongoing support from every where in the country and around the world.

Our days begin now with a recounting of new statistics we would never have thought we’d be giving. There are so many confirmed dead, so many dead identified, so many listed as missing, so many hundreds of thousands of tons of debris taken to Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, so many thousands of tons of steel taken into New Jersey. Traffic is slowed down at this or that place because there are vehicle searches underway and Single Occupant Vehicles are allowed to enter Manhattan below 63rd only after ten. Loud noises cause us to jump and we look over our shoulders. We follow cars with sirens with our eyes, and there are more cars with sirens now. Where have all the black sedans and SUV’s come from?

We are getting back to living our lives, though our lives are not what they were before September 11. On a visit to Lifetime an executive told me about the box of latex gloves she had just purchased for opening mail, a precaution that would have seemed silly six weeks ago seems perfectly logical in a town that today announced its sixth case of anthrax infection. It has been the week of Anthrax. Seems like a case or two a day.

Is this my world? We might have to go back to having small pox vaccinations. And there are idiots out there mailing parmesan cheese to their friends thinking it will be a funny joke. That one cost something like $300,000 to get straightened out.

I’m not sure the man who did it is going to find it very funny in jail, which is where his local authorities want to send him. An ad agency has just published a white paper: The Impact of Anthrax on Direct Mail.

We are making efforts to joke about things. At a restaurant yesterday the group next to me made reference to Manhattan as "Anthrax Island." We are attempting to laugh and make light of our situation. Getting around the city remains the occasional nightmare beyond what it normally is because of all the odd things that keep happening, odd things we have begun to accept as part of our lives.

Going on the six train uptown to meet friends, the small group standing next to me talked about how difficult it was to get down to work that morning. The six train didn’t run for an hour and a half that morning. Why? There was a police action, that’s all they knew. And there are a lot of police actions these days.

Yet, I am amazed at how much grace the guys in blue show, day after day after day, working twelve hour shifts six days a week. Down at Canal Street yesterday an officer teased a small crowd into responsibility. It was amazing, it was delightful. It brought tears to my eyes.

I went downtown to Exchange Place yesterday for a meeting and, by God, Wall Street seems almost normal, once you get it into your head that there are soldiers as well as police on the streets and they are just part of the fabric of our lives now.

Leaving a meeting at HBO yesterday something like a dozen policemen marched into the building and everyone on the way out glanced at them anxiously and searched their faces to get a read. Were they tense? Were they smiling? Why were they here? Probably not to just get out of the chill autumn air outside… They looked pretty relaxed, I thought, and that made me more comfortable but I still watched the news that night to see if there was anything about HBO on television. There wasn’t. And yet we keep on going, the streets above 14th seem full and lively and people are laughing again, even with Anthrax.

The city is still more civil than it has been. We have been good with one another. I had lunch yesterday with my friend Asif whose family originally hails from Bangladesh. I asked him if he had any trouble and he said: no, only once. Someone on the subway had called him a [Anglo Saxon expletive deleted] Muslim. But other than that, nothing. Which is better than he expected. And, for the most part, people here are being respectful of people of Asian origin and Muslim belief. The record is not perfect but better than I expected.

Tenants of a building organized a watch over the Afghan man who sells coffee from his cart in front their building. They were determined to see to his safety. Business was down so people left him extra money. The story filled me with joy. Asif told me that he and his wife were celebrating that part of the Calder sculpture, The Propeller, had been found. It had stood in the WTC Plaza and they had spent warm summer nights at jazz concerts in front of it. But down here in SoHo, where we live, the restaurants are sparsely filled and TriBeCa is pretty nearly empty my friends say.

A coalition has been formed to promote business and to get people back down town. Reading the New York Times an article discussed the fact we are getting used to all of this. We are beginning to accept that there is the possibility of our planes being taken down, of bombs, of anthrax and worse forms of bio terror that might come. We are factoring these into our lives. A way of life has passed out of this city and another one is beginning to replace it. It is what we now call, passing for normal. Passes for normal is all we have right now. How am I doing? Passing for normal.

The Smell; I'll never forget it
By Bruce Brodoff

It's been seven weeks since the Twin Towers were destroyed, and there are signs that the City is beginning to recover. The "frozen zone" around the site shrinks a bit more every few days, opening more streets to pedestrians and vehicles. Shuttered businesses are beginning to reopen, the hotel and restaurant business is beginning to pick up, the financial markets are operating, and the Yankees are on their way to another World Series ring.

The warm Indian summer brought out the strollers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is now sometimes possible to forget what happened on that awful day. And then the smell hits you.

It is an odor so strong, so repulsive, and so frightening - even after seven weeks -- that it defies description. I've heard the smell described as "burning Coke cans", "burning tires" and "burning wire," but these descriptions just don't do justice to the stench and what it represents. To me, the odor rising from the destruction smells like the physical manifestation of EVIL. I feel like I'm inhaling the very essence of the Devil itself with each breath. The stench is almost visible, and I don't mean because you can still see smoke rising from the crater. It is "visible" down in the subway, as your morning train approaches the Brooklyn Bridge station.

Sitting on the train, another groggy commute, lost in your thoughts or nodding off. Then it hits, like a punch in the face, reminding you that these are no longer routine mornings. There is a near unanimous reaction among fellow straphangers: The recoiling noses, the reaching for tissues or handkerchiefs, the solemn internal thoughts. It is "visible" during office meetings, or during lunch or dinner, or when taking a walk or working out, when the wind shifts and once again sends smoke your way.

No matter what you are doing, the smell stops you in your tracks and puts one overpowering thought back into your head: "Oh, yeah, the freakin' Twin Towers were destroyed." I find that it is most "visible" when it is pitch black outside, when I am awakened in the middle of the night by a good whiff of the smoke that has been carried by the breeze blowing off the harbor.

As I lay half-asleep, my eyes closed, the acrid smell irritating my throat and lungs, I feel as though I can "see" the evil forces that perpetrated this attack. The odor is a constant, monstrous presence, tangible evidence of the dark side, a real-life bogeyman that is not just under the bed but all around you, 24/7. I'm hoping that the odor will finally disappear once the fires under the rubble are extinguished and the site is cleared.

But I fear that even after the last traces of the former World Trade Center are removed, even after the new buildings and parks and memorials are built, after this horrible day is as firmly implanted in the history books and as long ago as Pearl Harbor is, that this odor will still linger. Maybe not as a permanent presence, but one that rears its ugly head at the most unsuspecting moments, disrupting business meetings, picnics and concerts, shopping sprees and commutes home, forever reminding all of what happened that day and what was lost.