I don't usually get to ride out a news wave. Most mornings I am in my classroom before eight o'clock, and unless the local "World Class Rock" station is leading with current headlines as opposed to traffic and "American Idol" results, I might not know what really important thing happened in the world until I came home and watched it on the eleven o'clock news. Sometimes I grab a look at the top stories before I check my e-mail at noon, but most days the outside world does not intrude.
Friday morning was a holiday - well, a manufactured one anyway. It was "In Lieu of Lincoln's Birthday" Day (thank you, Oakland Educator's Association for finagling us this extra day at the end of the year). My alarm clock didn't go off, but my head still told me it was time to wake up at six forty-five. I lay there for half an hour and tried to find my way back to sleep. When that didn't work, I opted for another odd bit of luxury: morning television. I flipped around the dial and discovered why it makes sense most days to go to work instead of relying on cable TV for an escape. I hadn't seen the episode of "Saved By The Bell: The College Years," but I decided to keep rolling around the dial until I found something just a notch more diverting. Waitaminnit - what's this? CNN says there is gunfire at the Capitol. Breaking News! Now we're talking!
I watched the static shot of the Capitol Dome with the reporter's voice crackling over the phone line, describing the chaos and confusion. They were in lockdown, and everyone in the building was to be detained and questioned. The anchor reminded me at least a half-dozen times in thirty minutes that "in this post-9/11 world, we have to take every threat seriously." There was another shot, this time from down near the parking garage where the shots were reported, but we were cautioned that there were no reliable reports of suspects, victims, or fatalities.
My remote finger started to get itchy. If it were really news, wouldn't everyone have it? Fox did. One of the local stations had switched to CNN's feed. This was starting to smell like a real panic. The Today Show was on tape delay from earlier this morning, and they hadn't broken in to their anticipation of Jimmy Buffett's appearance to tell us of any breaking news.
New Jersey Representative Jim Saxton heard what he thought were gunshots and had a member of his staff call Capitol Police. On high alert, police lined the street between the Capitol and the Rayburn building, rifles prominently displayed, and four ambulances, two fire trucks and other emergency vehicles were on the scene. Police methodically searched the sprawling building, where congressional staff members had locked themselves into their offices as a precaution. In the end, it turned out it was just "construction noise" that startled congressman Saxton.
For this I missed Jimmy Buffett mixing up Margaritas for Katie and Matt?