Southern Spirit and Stars

  E-mail Rick!

Sept. 17, 2004 5:35 p.m.

I always feel guilty leaving a location when the story's not over yet. Even after working more than 200 hours over 18 straight days, doing close to 300 live shots (beginning with the RNC, ending with Ivan in Gulf Shores), I hate to walk away.  Of course I'm exhausted and I miss my girl and my family and my friends, but I always try to finish what I started.  I'm dedicated to the job and the people I work for, determined to be thorough and accurate, covering the events and aftermath in an interesting and compelling way. I obviously can't do that if I'm on a plane back to New York.  So I leave Alabama and the Gulf Coast with regrets, but I look forward to recharging my batteries with some quality time at home.

Alongside the washed out Highway 59, just outside the beach of Gulf Shores, we were treated to another act of great hospitality in the middle of destruction and disaster.  Owen Gray, the owner of Big O's Seafood Grill, decided to fire up a couple of barbecues and deep fryers, and he and his staff spent the evening cooking and serving chicken fingers, chicken breasts, burgers, and fries to the assembled media horde, and anyone else who was hungry.  He never asked for money, even though he's a businessman, throwing himself into the project even though his restaurant had no power or water.  He confided to me that his beachfront home was also probably destroyed.  He didn't know for sure because he hadn't seen it yet, since the road was closed and police weren't letting anyone past.  He was trying not to think about it. And was most grateful his family was OK, and his restaurant was still standing.  He's a good man, and a FOX fan, and his kindness will not be forgotten.

We finished our last live shot for Greta's show Thursday night, packed up the gear and got ready to roll from Gulf shores back to a hotel in Mobile, and I noticed my crew staring up at the sky.  I followed their gaze, and was startled by the brilliant cloudless view.  With the power out, almost every star was visible. Chris Pontius, our Miami cameraman, pointed out the Milky Way. We spent a few minutes marveling at the depth and breadth and wonder of the view, obviously enhanced by the lack of lights due to the power outage.

It seemed profound and poetic, an act of Mother Nature serving to reveal more of the world beyond ours.  But I don't know if the storm's victims, including the millions left in the dark, would see it this way.

Mr. Leventhal,

I'd like to thank you for posting the Hurricane Hospitality story about the Landry's.  Such acts are the cornerstone of our great country and are as equally deserving of airtime as any other story.  In fact, I'd much rather hear about the compassion of our homeland than "The Memos."

Stay safe, for you are a welcome part of my family every time we turned to FOX News.

E. Ray (Knoxville, TN)


I enjoyed reading your article titled "Hurricane Hospitality."  Congratulations to Debbie Landry and her family for showing you out-of-towners what true southern hospitality really is. You may know by now that the warmth and caring she showed to you and your crew is very common in this part of the country.

You need to find some time to come back and allow us to show you a good time under better conditions.  Y'all come back now, ya hear!

Charlie (Baton Rouge, LA)

Coming from a New Orleanian native who evacuated to Arkansas, I really enjoyed your coverage over in New Orleans, especially near Lake Pontchartrain. What a trooper you were to stay out there for all those hours while still keeping a great attitude.  Just another reason why FOX News is my only choice for fair, balanced, and all around excellent reporting.  Hopefully your next trip to the Big Easy will be drier!
Geaux Tigers!!

— Jodee

Hi Rick,
Hope you got some rest. I have been watching the news about Pensacola. It looks really bad. We really enjoyed reading your article. I had to laugh about the family picture resembling the graduating class and faculty.
Please know you are welcomed any time for a meal while in New Orleans. Take care.

Great job covering Ivan as well as your other storm coverages and embeds in Iraq. Glad you got the chance to experience some New Orleans hospitality. Considering that you were in Key West early for Ivan and it didn't go there, and Ivan skipped New Orleans and you were down there waiting, please feel free to come back anytime we have a natural disaster bearing down on us.
Baton Rouge

Dear Rick,

I’m not much of a fan of people or things, but you, my man, are the star of the show at FOX. Is there anywhere they don’t send you? My wife and I were talking, if there is a chance of someone getting hurt or even killed Rick is the guy FOX puts out in the middle of it. Great job, but take care of yourself, we like you!



You did a terrific job reporting from New Orleans and your calm, steady style was a welcome respite from the hysteria found on other stations/networks.  FNC has strong credibility due to reporters such as yourself and this viewer, one of many, is very appreciative.
I'm glad that you experienced some New Orleans hospitality; but for the curfew, be assured that you and your crew would have been inundated by invitations.  Perhaps you will return to our fair city to report on our very serious wetlands erosion issue... at which time you may enjoy some of our famous restaurants.
— Mary 
PS - Your reporting (and FNC's coverage) from Iraq during your embed was also much appreciated.  It was an eye-opener!