My schedule was full before I walked into the newsroom today, but looked easy enough. But before the end of it, breaking news had me hustling, huffing, puffing and fearing for my life. I thought I might have a heart attack as I jogged, walked and waddled up the crest of a hill on Pettingill Street in Lewiston to find out the house on fire was still a couple hundred yards away. It’s three hours later and I am drained after the adrenaline rush of the fire and push to get photos from the fire, a track meet and lacrosse game out before deadline.
I came to work at 2 pm to meet with editors and designers about our Sunday feature for this weekend. The one we had been working on for several weeks had fallen through. It happens. The main subject got cold feet after several interviews and a compelling story on a hotbutton issue. We decided to bump up our Memorial Day package, which included a piece on the new memorial stone being etched at Collette Monuments. Bruce and I go way back and he had promised me a month ago that he would let me know when they would be etching the names on the monument. It was set for 3:00 today. I knew getting everything shot and back before deadline would be tight as I had a track meet in South Paris that started at 3:30. No worries, but I had a lacrosse game back in Lewiston at 6, so I knew I had to shoot and scoot at the track meet. So I called Bruce and asked if they were working on it yet to buy me a little more time. He said to come on over. I blew off the rest of the meeting with the editors picking entries for the Maine Press Association annual contest and headed to outer Sabattus Street and through the construction gauntlet on the way.
Don Collette was picking off letters from the template before sandblasting. My stomach still hurts from the deep belly laughs from his jokes and sense of humor. “It’s the glue.” he half-jokes. It was nearly 3:30 by the time I picked up a cheap iced coffee at Cumby’s and headed to South Paris. While shooting the meet, I talked to a few Lewiston athletes who went to the prom with my son Chris this past weekend and coach Paul Soracco about Isaish winning the 800 at this past weekend’s Big 10 championships. I got a great shot that I thought would be awesome at the top of our front page. Long and thin with some text in the sky. Later I found out the meet did not have a story. They don’t like to tease without to just a photo package without a story. But I did have some other pretty good photos that got great play on the front of the sports sections, so I can’t complain too much.
When I got to the lacrosse game at Lewiston High, it was nearing the end of the first quarter. I wasn’t having luck getting any good action, except one of my former neighbor, Roman Dennis. But in the back of my mind I could hear one of the mothers I know, who also has a son or two that plays say to me when we met walking our dogs; “Can you try to get a photo of somebody besides Roman. He is in every time.” I thought, no problem, I have plenty of time.
Just then I heard sirens. I know the sound of firetrucks, and they were going hard. It’s someting I have honed over the years. I did a 360 degree scan and noticed a big black plume of smoke. I started running….jogging and walking fast as I had the weight of the big lens on my camera, plus the weight of my girth flabbing around. I called the newsroom as I hustled to my car. Pettingill Street in Lewiston I was told.
When I got to the scene, I noticed our web guy, Larry Gilbert Jr. with his phone. “Periscoping?” I asked. “Yep” We had that covered, so I thought we were good, but he was at the front of the building and I could tell the fire was concentrated in the back. I ducked behind a few buildings and found a neighbor hosing down the grass that had caught fire. He had no shoes on. I thought that strange and fired off a few photos. I then decided to go LIVE on Periscope as I knew I had better stuff than Larry, so I pulled out my cell phone and started recording. I am sure the video was a little shaky as I was still panting from my near heart attack induced run to the scene. It got a little wobbly when I started shooting still images for print as I was shooting video with my camera. Multi-tasker am I! After getting images, I thought about the next element. Victims. I have found through the years that many people are ok with talking about what happened. Or they tell you to screw off, or worse. It is usually pretty evident before I even identify myself and ask. Often I see the hate in their eyes or realize they have lost a pet or loved one, or just overcome with emotion. I back off. But John Goddard looked like he wanted to talk. I asked if he wouldn’t mind me recording his story. He obliged and we streamed his recanting what happened. I have much more to tell, but I am tired and promised Justin I would buy him a beer at the Goose.