Our Dallas crew arrived in New Orleans on Monday February 5. Our Mardi Gras team consists of photographers Scott Gill, Guy Hernandez and Guy Morton, producer Maggie Lineback and myself.
We prearranged interviews and scheduled shoots for the upcoming Mardi Gras celebrations. The city is expecting pre-Hurricane Katrina attendance of almost a million people over the two-week event.
The week started out just fine. Our teams split up to cover several hot topics: violent crimes and what the New Orleans Police Department has been doing to prevent them; the school districts’ battle to find enough teachers to hold classes; the large number of babies being born in the Crescent City and why it happens after a natural disaster; and how students from a local university are working to design eco-friendly homes that can withstand hurricane force winds.
On Tuesday, news broke across the country that NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak had been arrested in Florida. I interviewed Nowak before she took her first flight into space last July. I called my bureau chief in Dallas — Russ Cosby — and reminded him that we had a one-on-one interview with Nowak. In that interview, she talked about her kids and the challenges of being an astronaut and having a family. By Wednesday night, my team was sent to Houston. The next morning we did live shots from outside Nowak’s house.
Nowak was very excited during her interview. She had waited ten years to fly in the space shuttle. Even though she was soft spoken and a little nervous — not as media savvy as some of the other astronauts — she was enthused about the trip, but also concerned about missing her kids. She said NASA provided time for the astronauts to call home and send e-mails, but she knew it would be a long time before she would see her teenage son and 5-year-old twin daughters. She also had a slight concern about the safety of the shuttle. Around NASA, Discovery is rumored to be the safest of the spacecrafts. Nowak said she discussed the risks with her family and was looking forward to the positives the flight would bring to her life.
Standing outside her house, you could see lights being turned on and off — but no one knew for sure if she was in there. One of my colleagues went to the front door to see if anyone wanted to come out and make a comment. She was turned away. It’s never fun covering tragic stories like this, especially after you have met the person. You kinda feel like you know them and how could this happen to them.
That afternoon, my producer and I were sent back to New Orleans. In the airport, we heard the breaking news of Anna Nicole Smith’s death. Smith was a Texas native who found fame and fortune while stripping at a Houston club, where she met oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall. That night, my producer was sent back to Houston to help our new Dallas correspondent Kris Guiterrez with live shots the next morning.
Photographer Guy Hernandez and I drove back to Houston the next day with all our equipment. The strip club owner did not want us on his property. He said we were scaring all his customers away. So we set up across the street in a strip mall parking lot. It was so cold in Houston that day. Texas in general is having some very atypical weather this year, so we kept running to the Starbucks for hot apple cider.
After our day was done, we were sent back to New Orleans. Upon arriving, I found out one of my pieces of luggage did not make it. That bag had all of my television make up. We use a lot of it to make us look good on camera. I filed my missing bag claim with the airline and went back to the hotel. Upon arriving, I found out what else I had missed. One of our photographers, Guy Morton, had been in the ninth ward shooting some video for one of our stories, when he popped a tire driving among some debris. He said several people came by offering to help him change it. He was surprised not only by how many people offered help but also by how many people were in the ninth ward. It is an area that is slowly, slowly coming back to life. Most businesses are still closed and the power is on in limited areas. The city estimates only 200 of the 9000 residents are back. But Guy says there are a lot more houses with fresh paint, for rent and for sale signs around but most importantly there are people driving around the area. We have not seen that in the last couple trips we’ve made to the city.
That was only the first week of our trip in New Orleans. With all the major parades expected to begin again this Wednesday, we can’t wait to see what will happen next!
Kim McIntyre joined FOX News Channel (FNC) as a Dallas-based correspondent in 2006. She previously worked as a freelance producer in FNC’s Washington, DC, bureau. You can read the rest of her bio here.