Where is Everybody?

Sept. 6, 2005 9:04 p.m.
Waveland, Miss.

When I first got my Blackberry, it felt revolutionary. I loved it from the moment I began using it — the instant emails, the ease of typing with my thumbs on the baby keyboard, the built-in phone and instant messaging and Internet access and seemingly unlimited memory for addresses and calendar reminders and notes and alarms.

Now it seems like everyone has them. I'm not complaining. I rely on it more than ever, and every person who gets one is one more person I can get in touch with more easily.

I guess it just doesn't feel special anymore.

My BB didn't work for days after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast. It was a strange feeling being disconnected, and frustrating, because it was more difficult to get in touch with New York or with officials on the ground. I couldn't access the wires as easily, and couldn't communicate with my crew when we split up. Towards the end of last week I got sporadic service, and now many of the cell towers are back up and operational. I'm getting at least one bar, at least half the time.

I only write about this because I had one of those moments today that we all experience from time to time — something that isn't a big deal, but strikes you as funny or strange and is worth remembering.

I was standing on the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima with several high-ranking members of the military, waiting for a Blackhawk to come pick us up. I looked around and realized that every single one of them was reading or replying to e-mails on their Blackberries.

I thought, "This sure isn't my father's Army..."

Then, I pulled my Blackberry from its holster and joined the crowd.

* * *

Next: My day with General Honore

E-mail Rick

Don't you ever get tired of being that easily accessible? I know I do - long gone are the days of being really "off". All this technology is great, but sometimes you need to just be out of reach, don't you think?

Jennifer R.
Pensacola, FL

Ain't it something? I've been looking for my next e-mail client and I was leaning toward another technology. Maybe I've decided on the the Blackberry. If it's in Rick Leventhal's inventory AND the US Navy's, it should be in mine. Keep up the excellent work Rick. Stay safe.

Frank B
Go Navy!

Rick I know your busy and I appreciate your articles. I couldn't help but chuckle a little bit when you referred to your blackberry. This isn't my fathers WWII (generation) Army either. Thanks for the chuckle, nothing wrong with a little humor in the midst chaos.

Atlanta, GA

My husband is addicted to his blackberry, or should I say blackberries. He's in politics and actually carries two of them. One for state business and one for political business. Sometimes when we're at dinner, he'll seem distracted, looking into his dinner napkin and I realize he's reading an e-mail. He'll occasionally excuse himself to go to the men's room, just so he can respond to his e-mails!! During one of his distracting moments I actually got him to agree to make mulch out of his own mother. (She and I aren't fans!) Ha!

Anyway, they're exceptional gadgets, but very addicting! Great work from Mississippi. Good luck to you and your crew!



Being "introduced" to you as an embedded reporter at the start of the war; I gained immense respect for you. I read the "rambles" and smile laugh and cry. Both of my kids had very different experiences in Iraq, they are both home safe now but I do understand your comment of this sure isn't my father's army. My daughter lived in a 15x15 room complete with a roommate and internet that she paid for. 7 days a week, every week of her year tour of duty we were on IM for a minimum of 2 hours just so that I knew she was ok. I have many of her friends from the unit on my IM, when they would get online a lot of times I would hear "could you call my family and let them know I'm online"? The 6 am wake up call was always interesting until they found out why they were hearing from a complete stranger. As a result I have made some wonderful friends. My son's tour was as exact opposite as you could get extremely sporadic e-mails even more sporadic on chat sessions and 3 phone calls. It sounds as though my son shared the same kind of military experience as your father and yes mine. Limited contact with home and family.

Jill L.
Salt Lake

Hello Rick,

I'm from a small town on the Oregon coast. A few years ago I spent a couple years in Florida. I was continually referred to as a "Damn Yankee." My only response was, "The only yankees I know of are ball players and screwdrivers." Blackberries?? Well we have two types here, Himalayan and Evergreen. I'm new at this computer stuff. But I appreciate your style of reporting. Keep up the great work. Thanks.

Butch S.

You are right. But also be aware that all of the military people probably had to buy their own BB with their own money in order to be able to do their jobs more efficiently, while many of us in the private sector were given BB's by our firms.

Semper Fi

We followed you through the Iraq war and have followed you through Hurricane Katrina...both horrendous events. We thank you for your intelligent, brave and compassionate reporting. Thank you for making the world's hotspots accessible to all of us who care so much, but
can't be there to see and hear for ourselves. You make us a part of the events in just the way we need. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in all you do. Keep us informed and pass our love and concern along to all the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We're giving all we can to help them recover.

From Chell and all my colleagues in Colorado Springs