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On Friday night, at about 9:55 p.m., Beth Holloway Twitty (search) sat down on the set with me in Aruba. Because of rain — the edge of Hurricane Emily (search) — we got pushed inside the hotel for our show.
Beth was the scheduled guest in the first segment — the "A block." Moments after she sat down, and as we casually talked, the entire room went black — no lights, no camera, just darkness. The crew started yelling. What happened to our power?
I grabbed my BlackBerry, pressed the button to light the screen and checked the time. It said "9:59." As the chaos in the room grew and as the crew scrambled to find the circuit that was blown, I casually said to Beth, "It is 9:59... this is not a particularly good sign."
Beth and I were the only two even slightly amused — the crew was in a total panic yelling about the circuit breaker (and, of course, no one could see.) I heard my producer yelling into his cell phone to the New York control room that we had lost all power. It was typical TV pandemonium and why we all love live TV — it is forever a "near death" experience without fatalities.
Then, seconds later, the power came on and I could see in the TV monitor that for the second night in a row my colleague Uma Pemmaraju (search) was starting the show. I heard her say my name and mention something about technical problems.
If you think I was surprised by the technical glitch, think of poor Uma. She is just "minding her own business" as the 10 o'clock hour approaches and she suddenly gets slammed with having to do our show. She had zero notice. Worse, at the time she had no idea whether she would be doing the show for five seconds or maybe an hour. She did not know it was simply a blown circuit (New York was not aware of the reason for no power.) There was no time to explain to Uma the likely cause of the problem or likely duration. No doubt all Uma got was someone yelling in her ear to start the show. Lucky Uma.
While Uma was not part of the planning for the show during the day, I am sure she was asked to familiarize herself with our rundown and guest list. Knowing the risk of "road shows" we have anchors stand by in the event of technical problems. The risk of technical problems grows when you are on the road, and out of the country.
While Uma was starting our show and explaining the technical issue, she had no time to realize the potential breadth of problems she had. If I had no power then neither did "her" guests. The guests were with me. Uma could not go to Beth Holloway Twitty, Aruban attorney Chris Lejuez, or investigative reporter Tito Laclie. They were all with me... with no power. Lucky Uma.
She did have my taped interview with the mother of the Kalpoe brothers to toss to (it had been fed to New York hours earlier) and a few other pieces of tape and she had Ted Williams in our D.C. bureau.
It also did not "help" that the Kalpoe mother interview was not scheduled for the first segment — it was scheduled for a later segment in the show — the "B Block." Hence the tape had to be quickly restacked for the top of the show. There was not much time. Remember, the problem occurred at 9:59 p.m. If for some reason that could not have been done in a matter of seconds, Uma was down to simply talking to herself — not a lucky position for any anchor to find himself or herself in.
So while Uma scrambled — and did a great job — and while the New York control room madly tried to re-group for the possibility of no guests and a show unexpectedly originating out of New York and while my crew in Aruba madly looked for circuit breakers in a dark room, I just sat there doing nothing. I had the easy job. I wish I had had a handycam (and a light for it) to show you the chaos in the room in Aruba.
Before the interview with the Kalpoe mother ended, the crew with me in Aruba found the circuit breaker and we got power. But, before we could join the show in progress, New York audio had to check everything — they needed to be certain I could hear the show and they could hear me. This is routine but seems rather chaotic to those who are on the set.
We got everything fixed, I joined the show, took us out of the tape and went to Beth seated next to me and interviewed her. Beth is a real pro and acted like nothing happened, that the room we were in had not gone through complete chaos, and we did the interview. I guess Beth has had so much upheaval in her life that this was nothing bad and she is right — it is just TV.
There are many pictures posted today. Check out my photo essay by clicking on the link in the photo box above. Some require some explanation but there is limited space for text under the image so I will describe some here:
In our non-stop effort to learn about the disappearance of Natalee, we tried to meet everyone and see every place of possible significance. We decided to check out Joran van der Sloot's school, which we had been told was very exclusive. We were surprised by what we found — it is next to a big oil refinery, there's trash all over the area of the school and a generally dirty environment. It did not appear to be an exclusive private school environment when compared to private schools in the USA. The school is moving to another location soon, so maybe they don't care about keeping the area clean. We found abandoned grills against the side of the school, cans and trash all around the exterior. I have posted a few pics of the school and in posting them noted that they don't really show the poor conditions we found.
I have received many e-mails asking for an update about the monkey I mentioned in a previous blog and whose picture has been posted. The monkey is in a cage in the yard next to the Van der Sloots' home. We went to their home again this trip to see if we could get an interview and once again we brought the monkey food. No one seems to be home at the house where the monkey is... but the monkey appears to be in good health. He also seems to like us a more: He is very friendly and did not show some of the fear he did the first few times. Of course we have now fed him dozens of time.
I regret that I am way behind in responding to viewer e-mails because I had very little opportunity to respond while I was in Aruba.
One last matter: On Saturday we flew back from Aruba to Washington, D.C. via Miaimi (and, yes we had an unexpected five hour layover in Miami due to mechanical problems. The layover was supposed to be a little over an hour.) When we landed in Miami from Aruba, we had to wait several extra minutes because either something was wrong with the jet way or the plane door. Everyone stood in the aisle patiently awaiting the opening of the door. Likewise one of my producers and I stood in the aisle waiting for the door to open. No one complained and it was not that long. Because of the size of the plane, the aisle was quite crowded with passengers and bags.
After my producer and I got off the plane, we waited at the end of the jet way for another colleague — she was seated farther back in the jumbo plane than we were on from Aruba to Miami. She came up to me laughing as we waited for her in the Miami terminal. Apparently some "expert" in the back of the plane loudly announced to several passengers — or anyone who would listen — the reason for the delay in getting off the plane. The "expert" informed everyone that first they had to get Greta Van Susteren off the plane and that they do that with TV people. I am sure those in a hurry were quite annoyed to hear what this "expert" said. Fortunately for me, my colleague set her straight. I got off the plane with everyone else — and have never had a special exit. The only people I have ever seen get special treatment are ill or desperate to make a tight connection. This is how rumors start... and yes, I put my pants on one leg at a time.
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