Covering Tragedy: From Mexico to Las Vegas

Bay Area Stations Send Crews To Cover Disasters

By Kevin Wing
Editor, Off Camera

It’s an understatement to say that the Western Hemisphere has had its share of tragic events in the last several weeks. From relentless hurricanes hitting Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and earthquakes rocking Mexico, to Las Vegas — scene of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history — television news crews across the United States have scrambled to cover it all.

Within our San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, television stations are making it a regular occurrence of sending reporters and photographers out of town to cover the biggest stories of the year.

In the hours following the nation’s worst mass shooting in modern history, Bay Area stations, for instance, dispatched news teams to Las Vegas to cover the Oct. 1 tragedy, where authorities say 59 people were killed and more than 500 people were injured, when a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage from his hotel room high above a concert taking place outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Within hours of the shootings, Bay Area stations decided to send reporters, anchors and photographers to Las Vegas to cover what undoubtedly will be one of the year’s top stories. For example, KNTV NBC Bay Area flew anchor Raj Mathai and reporter Cheryl Hurd to cover the tragedy just as KTVU Fox 2 had dispatched reporter/anchor Ken Wayne and as KPIX 5 sent reporter/anchor Juliette Goodrich.

Two weeks before, KNTV had dispatched one of its veteran reporters, Damian Trujillo, to Mexico City to cover the recovery and aftermath following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake which struck that region exactly 32 years to the day of the 1985 earthquake that devastated the city.

For Trujillo, the images of what he saw two weeks ago are something he will remember for the rest of his life.

“I’m standing next to news crews from around the world,” Trujillo says in this exclusive interview for Off Camera. “Everyone is fixated on the 40 or so rescuers risking their own lives on top of the rubble, hoping to find a sign of life. Right behind us are families in anguish. Some hug. Others stare at the rubble with no expression. And a few gather in prayer.”

For Trujillo, married with children, he couldn’t imagine their pain. And seeing their pain was not only painful for him, but difficult to witness.

“I can’t even fathom my own child trapped in a building like that, and there was nothing I could do. As a human being, I put my own kids’ faces on the faces of those trapped children, and it tore me to pieces. All I could do as a reporter, is report. Tell their stories. Show their anguish. And show their hope.”

Something else Trujillo witnessed in the shadow of the rubble left by the earthquake was the kindness of people.

“The countless Mexicans who showed up, whether it was 1 p.m. or 1 a.m., with boxes full of sandwiches, tamales, and tortas so the volunteers — thousands of them — could keep lending a hand. The taco vendor who abandoned profits for a couple of days to set up shop at the crumbled school to cook his food so the Topos, the military, and the volunteers could have something to eat.”

Helpers, helping the helpers.

And, even as Trujillo reported on these good Samaritans, he, too, wished he could have assisted in some way.

“I sometimes wished I could grab a shovel, and help relieve some of Norma Sotelo’s anguish. She was still waiting for her cousin, who’s in the rubble in the Condesa community. But, I carry a press pass, and I respect it. I came to tell their stories, and in the process, I got a lesson in determination, in community, and in humility.”

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