Dispatch by Holly Sweet

A group of women get together on the last Sunday of the month in Tulsa. We consider ourselves "creative" and want to network. Actually...in reality we want to drink alcohol and eat food normally forbidden in our daily diets.

They've been after me to meet at my house. "How can I do this and live with the thought of turning down work?" I think to myself. "You can do it." My other self replies, "People in the media have lives all the time. I've read about them. They exist." ...... Work be damned! I'll do it!

The weekend approaches. No work has been turned down. My friend Amy Bowers and her younger daughter will stay with me on Saturday night as they travel from Albuquerque to New York and then I'll have 25 drunks over early Sunday evening. Monday I'll celebrate Memorial Day by sticking an American flag on my dog's tail. It'll be a perfect weekend.

After Amy leaves Sunday morning, I crawl back into bed for a little nap. It's about 9:00 a.m. The phone rings. There's been an accident on Interstate 40 (a barge hit a bridge on I-40, the bridge collapsed and took several cars, a couple of semi's and a horse trailer with it) and I need to get there pronto to run sound for ABC. Uh oh.

Eventually, by the time all 25 women have arrived and the pina colada blender is going full force, there's been 26 calls. I know this because of the miracle of caller ID and a phone that keeps a running tally.

I get to my hotel room for the GMA live shot at 12:30 a.m. Call time is 3:45 a.m. in the lobby and we're wheels up at 3:50. Everybody is wrecked, so I fit right in. The shot comes off flawlessly and the only problem is that the sound gear is soaked. It's not my gear and it's in a Porta Brace that doesn't even HAVE rain cover for the front pouch. You know.... the part where you keep the receivers. And the lavaliere mic's. And the transmitters not in use. All that "rainproof" part of the sound gear in the rain. Lots and lots of rain.

It ends up being a weird week. Not bad weird. Just "weird" weird. First off - it's one of those "let's put all the satellite trucks in a parking lot together" things. Why? "So we can get the pool tapes." I'm told. A pool tape looks like it's roughly 6" X 9". I've never measured. But it's small and pretty light weight. A truck, on the other hand, is larger. We bring the truck to the tape? I cannot ask this question because I'm a sound tech, i.e., the bottom of the food chain. But I know this: When the control room guys saw the live shot later in the day, and there was no river, no bridge, no disaster in the background, they went apoplectic. "WHY ARE WE SPENDING ALL THIS MONEY TO HAVE A LIVE SHOT WITH A CORN FIELD IN THE BACKGROUND?"

I was curious also. But as bottom of the food chain... I said nothing.

The second weird thing was the degree of spin control conducted by the small town police, the state troopers, the National Guard, the medical examiners office, the NTSB and the disaster folks. There was little or no information forthcoming. The designated PIA's were sing song in their presentations and contemptuous of the media. And there were repeated reports of members of the media being threatened with arrest if they walked down a public street in the towns and vicinity of the wreck. A print reporter from an Oklahoma City paper was handcuffed and lived to tell in an article the next day.

By the third day into the disaster, the NTSB had not interviewed the pilot of the tug boat pushing the barge. And no one could or would explain the reasoning into this phenomenon, except to say that the pilot's doctor and lawyer had refused access. The NTSB is used to this? I don't know. I'm bottom of the food chain, as I mentioned before. But I know this much because we're ALL together in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere and a full mile from the disaster site and we all have time to chat.

Life is good.

Holly Sweet is a freelance audio mixer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She partnered for many years with her husband, the late Brian Sweet. They were a film and video crew based in Oklahoma City for network news, magazine shows and corporate clients. She now works independently. bsweet@ix.netcom.com

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