Change of Plans

August 2, 2005 9:45 p.m.

I'm home for just a few minutes after a nearly three-hour-long drive. I'm half undressed and my bag is still packed from my trip to Lancaster, Penn.

I've been up since 6 a.m. working on a cool exclusive story, but now I'm back in the city and looking forward to playing hoops tonight. It's the season finale and my team is headed for the league playoffs. A win could earn us a bye in the first round.

My Blackberry cell rings. It's Refet Kaplan, our New York Bureau chief.

"What airport are you close to?" He immediately asks.

"I just got home. LaGuardia?"

"Need you to get to Toronto. Plane crash."

My mind races. How many are dead? How quickly can I get to Canada? What other plans do I have? Any conflicts? Can my other story wait? What do I need to pack? What's the weather there? Where's my passport?

"No problem," I tell Refet. "I'm just gonna get cleaned up and pack and go."

I take a quick shower. As I'm getting dressed, I book the first flight to Toronto. The airport would soon be closed, but it hadn't happened yet.

The plane is not scheduled to leave for three hours and the airport is less than an hour away, but as I'm packing, I start getting text messages.

"We're trying to book you on an earlier flight" is the most important one. "Get to the airport as quick as you can."

I check the weather on the Web and pack, returning e-mails and answering calls as I load my carry-on.

Meanwhile, the travel department books multiple flights for me and my producer to Toronto — in case the airport reopens soon — and to Buffalo. I have rental cars waiting at both airports and four rooms reserved at a hotel in downtown Toronto, since another producer and satellite truck engineer are driving from Albany to meet us.

Another team is headed to the scene (also via Buffalo) from Chicago. They have rooms at a different hotel at the Toronto airport.

I get a cab in the city no problem and make it to LaGuardia plenty early. Maryam Sepehri, my producer for this trip, meets me at the US Air terminal and we both manage to get seats on the earlier flight, which was sold out.

I get updates on my Blackberry in the airport lounge. More than 300 people on board, but no deaths. The plane is in flames, but everyone gets off alive with just 14 injuries.

Our flight is delayed, but we're in the air around 9 p.m. It promises to be a long night and a long Wednesday.

I wonder when we'll get to Canada and how quickly we can get on the air …

E-mail Rick!


This is the first time that I saw you substituting on John Gibson's "Big Story" — great job. You write very well. Very talented.

An Avid FOX News Fan,

— Don

You were terrific as the host today! You had enthusiasm and wonderful rapport with your guests. This was the first time we have seen you host a show. You were a success! Keep doing such good work!

— Jim and Judy


You put flutters in my stomach and tears in my eyes with your short, but very descriptive words of the Discovery liftoff. Thank you for taking me back to when I was young. I was right there with you and I miss the excitement we used to feel with the countdown and liftoff.

— Leslie in Austin, Texas

Hey Rick,

Chills and bumps. Heart flutters and big smiles. That was awesome! Great coverage!. Did it make you wish you had been an astronaut instead of a news reporter? Glad everything went well for you all and thanks for the blog this morning ... always interesting and informative. Now we can worry about getting them, and you, back down.

— Fans in Rockbridge Baths, VA

We enjoy your work and commentary. Thank you for all your efforts and keep your feet clean, OK?

— Mary Kay


I also had my bare feet wanded, but I had set off the scanner. I have a pin in my foot and the TSA guy went crazy trying to figure out why his detector kept going off. He used two devices! When I told him that I had metal in my foot, he brought over his fellow TSA types to show them. It was funny!! So I guess there could be some method to their madness.

— Mike Jude


I once saw a airport screener wand some Boy Scouts who were in uniform with their badges. After that came a ancient old lady barely walking, and he wanded her. When it was my turn I told the man if we have to wand Boy Scouts and little old ladies we have lost already.

— Eric