We arrived late Wednesday at the Aruba airport to an amazing greeting: the island's head of protocol met us at the plane (yes, down the jetway at the actual door to the plane!) He heard we were arriving and wanted to make sure all was well. I don't think I have ever gotten a greeting like that and it is unlikely I will get one in the future like that! He escorted us to where we could rent a car and then led us to our hotel through the backstreets of Aruba. Even Aruba has rush hour traffic and he wanted to get us to our first assignment fast.
As we walked to the car (after immigration and customs), everyone was exceptionally friendly. Even the animals were friendly — see my photo essays for the pictures of a cat that also met us at the airport. Everyone we ran into seemed to know we were bringing our show to the island. We could not figure out the reason for the very warm reception. It turns out that the paper announced in their edition — see picture — that we were coming to town! (And no, I don't think the cat at the airport read the paper. I think he lives there and just likes everyone!)
The first thing we did, even before getting into our rooms, was race to do the walk and talk at the California Lighthouse (search) and the Holiday Inn — the places where it is thought Natalee Holloway was on May 30. We showed you our "walk and talk" on Wednesday night. We had to hurry and do it because we needed to "feed" the tape to New York and I had to get back to our live site to do an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor."
I discovered my good fortune after the walk and talk: Our live site is a series of hotel rooms and balconies and my room is right next door to our live site (now our "Aruba bureau.") I love the convenience of having the bureau just a wall away from my bed — although what I did not count on is that the bureau would be "up and running" at 5 a.m. and that the walls are thin. Fortunately I am so sleep-deprived that I could hear my colleagues working away at 5 a.m. onward, but could fade in and out of sleep anyway. It is much like sleeping on an airplane with people talking around me and you know how experienced I am at that!
After "The O'Reilly Factor" — which Rick Leventhal also did — I began preparing for the night's show. I was also told that Natalee Holloway's (search) mother was available for a pre-tape interview. There was a mad rush to make that happen — we rented another room, cameras were moved to it, lighting set up, etc. I taped it about 8 p.m. — again, we were up against the clock since we had to feed the tape and do it before 9 p.m. since "Hannity & Colmes" needed the satellite at 9 p.m.
I was most impressed with Natalee's mother, Beth. She is determined and she is strong — she is not going to leave Aruba until she finds her daughter. It is hard to comprehend what this mother is going through. What "surprised" me later was myself — I thought I sounded harsh in the interview. My heart goes out to this mother and I thought when I watched the interview that I appeared not to have empathy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would do anything to help this mother! So, as I watched the interview for the first time (when you also saw it), I was not happy with myself. I wondered if when I am upset for someone I seem cold... maybe that is my defense mechanism? Anyway, I am not going to dwell on that — we have far more important things to do like try and find this child (and the many other missing children who are not getting the same media attention, which I regret.)
We did our show from the patio behind the hotel. Many local people showed up to watch. FOX News' Atlanta bureau is responsible for setting up the show here — and I can't believe the job they did! They did an absolutely perfect job.
I felt a bit toxic doing the show. I was sprayed with bug spray. Our lights outside attract bugs — lots of them.
Check out the picture of Rick Leventhal in the photo essay. I love the way he is dressed. The heat down here is quite punishing — even at night — and Rick had dressed accordingly, but you can't see it on the TV camera. You can see it here... on the blog.
After the show we were all exhausted. We have been on the road and the heat, as I noted, is punishing. But we had one last stop. We turned off the lights on the set, jumped in the car and drove into town with our cameras. We wanted to see the club where Natalee was on May 30 and wanted to see it at the time of the night/morning when she was there. I was stunned. Maybe I am getting old — or am old. I did not like the place at all. The bar is about a block off the main drag and in a not-so-safe looking area to me. The island IS safe... but this block did not leave me feeling safe. Of course the hour — 1 a.m. — never makes me feel safe and the drinking was heavy by that time. We talked to many patrons and taped them for you... you will see that tonight. All the patrons said the club is a great place and that the island is safe. We were harassed a bit by some obnoxious patrons but that would happen outside a bar in the USA. But bottom line, I did not feel safe there and neither did anyone in my group. I hope my husband does not read this blog today because he will yell at me for going there — to a place that I did not find safe — at that hour! If he does read it: I am not going back and I was with a crew of people!
E-mail No. 1
It is interesting to me that Greta was so very determined to use the correct terminology regarding Terri Schiavo's ("brain damaged vs. brain injured" state) autopsy findings, but she has a MAJOR problem pronouncing "Holloway," which is pronounced exactly as it is spelled. Greta, please! It is NOT HALLoway — it is HOLLoway. I know Natalee's mother has to cringe when you pronounce her daughter's name incorrectly, but being the gracious Southern belle that she is, she would never correct you. However, to those of us back in Alabama, it is really grating on our nerves! Certainly since you were so judicious in getting the proper terminology for the Schiavo case, you would want to pronounce Natalee's name properly. We appreciate your attention to this little detail. Thanks!
ANSWER: I posted this e-mail because it is not the first I have gotten that I don't pronounce Holloway correctly. In fact, I have received so many e-mails about this that I asked Natalee's mother on Wednesday night if I am saying it wrong. She laughed and said I am saying it correctly. Maybe it is my Wisconsin accent? Anyway, I am trying to say it correctly, and I am reading your e-mails about it.
Send your thoughts and comments to: email@example.com
Watch "On the Record" weeknights at 10 p.m. ET