Back to New Orleans

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On Friday, Congressman Baucus from Alabama met with some Aruban officials in Washington, D.C. We discussed the meeting on Friday night's show. After the meeting he held a press conference in one of the House of Representative office buildings. Today I have posted some behind the scenes pictures from that presser. Click on the link in the photo box above to check out my photo essay.

What is great about this job is that it is never dull and there are many times that we can help even if in a small way. Here is an example: At about 5:30 p.m. Friday night, I expected to be on a plane the following morning (Saturday) to start a vacation with my husband. But within very short order two things happened: President Bush announced he would speak to the nation on Sunday and an interview with Senator Hillary Clinton that I had been trying to get for weeks came through for Saturday. The interview with Senator Clinton was short notice and a surprise, since the Senate was immersed in voting and it was thought that no senators could break free of Washington, D.C.

I was told that the interview with Senator Clinton could be either by satellite on Sunday or I could travel to New Orleans to do it. She and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., were headed to New Orleans to inspect the hurricane-ravaged area. I assume that Senator Landrieu wanted Senator Clinton to see first hand the devastation and I assume that Senator Clinton was eager to see it.

So what do I do? Take the plane the following day to begin the planned vacation? Anchor the Sunday 10 p.m. post-President Bush speech? Do the interview remotely/by satellite? Or travel to New Orleans to interview Senator Clinton? All the options were attractive in their own way, but I could delay my vacation two to three days... it is fascinating to anchor a post-presidential speech... but I could not resist going back to New Orleans. If you had seen what we in the media saw in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina, you would have made the same choice. The loss of life (bodies floating by) and the physical devastation (water many feet deep and all over, no power, homes destroyed, rescues and searches, etc.) has left an indelible mark on all of us and we want to go back and help in any way we can. If we can highlight the devastation and need for help and the great need for solutions for those who have suffered so — we will.

So we seized upon the opportunity to go back to New Orleans, just as we did when we interviewed former Presidents Bush and Clinton on two other trips to New Orleans after our initial post Katrina time there.

If you think I am alone in wanting to do this — I am not. Ask anyone in the media who has been there. All the networks and print outlets covered this story closely (on site) and intensively. Everyone I know in the business feels the same about seizing the opportunity to go back and cover it. No one walked away from Hurricane Katrina un-phased. People in the media genuinely wanted to and want to help the thousands who have suffered and who are suffering from the wrath of Katrina. If our coverage helps, we want to do it. (Incidentally, my colleague Shepard Smith is in the Gulf States region all this week. He is from Mississippi so he has even more of an attachment to this tragedy.)

So the decision to go to New Orleans and spend the day following the two U.S. senators was made easily and quickly. No one hesitated but now we had to pull off the mechanics of doing it without much notice on a Friday night, mid-holiday season, when we are short staffed. We had to scramble to get flights to New Orleans, hotel rooms, a crew to "shoot" the interview, etc.

And yes, I had to cancel the vacation outgoing flight and re-route myself out of New Orleans on either Sunday night to my vacation. In spite of my changed plans, early Saturday morning I drove my husband to the airport so he could catch our original vacation flight. Changing his flight was turning out to be a problem, so it was just easier for him to leave as planned. As I drove him to the airport I said, "I promise I will catch up with you — Monday at the latest." He has heard stuff like this from me often. We have been together since 1979 and I think I have done things like this to virtually every vacation we have planned and he is now both used to it and a good sport about it. Plus, he knows how important the Hurricane Katrina story is. Everyone is touched by it — including my husband. How can you not be?

I plan to post some pictures from the Saturday/Sunday trip to New Orleans on Tuesday's blog. I will also tell you more about the day there and what we saw. Bottom line: It still is horrible and perhaps looks worse since now the water has receded and you can see damage that was previously hidden by feet of water.

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