So the topic of this week’s writing workshop is opinion.  And I’ve decided to include the first draft of my submitted opinion piece below.  While the content, Hurricane Irene, is a bit dated. I still feel it’s relevance… after all, news is news.

White Noise

On Monday August 22, we were still anticipating the weekend ahead at the Delaware Beaches, which would be spent celebrating the closing of my friend’s single chapter by drinking margaritas and playing in the sand.  In the midst of our pre-planning email fury, one of our friends mentioned the possibility of a hurricane coming up the East coast.  What hurricane?

A day later things started to get shaky.  Tuesday afternoon a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, possibly the strongest to ever hit Virginia according to the Washington Post, rattled people from Maine to South Carolina.  I didn’t feel a thing.  Emails, calls, and instant messages about the quake derailed everyone’s productivity for the afternoon. Hurricane Irene was suddenly on the back burner, finishing last on the ticker tape headlines.  There were plenty of news stories, CNN alerts, and radio broadcasts about the earthquake, but they seemed to dissipate as quickly as the earthquake had.  No aftershock.

But the news stations got another chance to overdo it.

Thursday rolled around and, suddenly, there was no longer a bachelorette party to look forward to.  In my office, low grumblings of cancelled events and inconveniences gave way to anxious chatter about evacuation zones and emergency supplies.  A friend of mine, who lives downtown in the Financial District, asked if she could bring her family to my apartment, which perched on the higher ground of the Upper East Side.

They arrived on Saturday around noon, and, upon their arrival, we promptly plopped ourselves down on the couch to do what every good citizen would in the wake of a state emergency: watch the news.  Purging itself of regular scheduled programs, the network stations (which were the only ones received by my television) fixated on the pending storm.  And wasn’t this their moment to shine.  Anchors were tucked comfortably into the mahogany desks while meteorologists pranced in front of their radar screens, outfitted in their Sunday best, hair placed perfectly and teeth as white as ever.  Video footage of grayish-blue, foamy storm surge was slipped in between broadcast developments, hinting of possible danger.  Novice field reporters in slick raincoats braced themselves for gale-force winds and downpours.  It was slated to be the worst hurricane the Northern East Coast had seen in decades and it seemed as though the news was going to squeeze every last drop of airtime out of it that they could. As the hours of Saturday evening dwindled on, and there was nothing left to do but sleep, I dreamt about the late-night crews still broadcasting, howling their projections on perilous developments into the wee hours of the night.  Each twist and turn of their footage contributed to the sheer force of this story as a spectacle of entertainment.

On Sunday the TV came back on.  Scenes of fallen trees, muddy streets and flooded roadways were narrated with stoic commentary.  We watched reporters valiantly slush through mud and plough through flood waters in pick-up trucks as they traversed the most affected parts of the city.  Water lapped deviously at the edges of the Battery Park promenade.  Look at this! They exclaimed. The tide was sure to rise.  A clip of a girl in a bright pink shirt walking through two feet of water cycled over and over.  Just as I thought I was seeing a twisted expression of amusement on her face, the screen would flip to an image of the empty, eerie New York streets.

Enough was enough.  We ventured outside, at the behest of the media, to find breakfast.  The sky was light, and a fine rain sifted through the air.  Off of first avenue, the only open diner was packed with people wanting to see for themselves how the city had fared against the storm.  Hours and days later, we would come to find out that, while the city was (for the most part) in tact, nearby areas in upstate New York and New England had been completely demolished.  CNN reported the following week that the death toll as of August 30th stood at 43 (it is now known to have caused over 56 deaths) and that over 2.85 million customers were without power.  And we were watching close-ups of piles of sticks and panoramic views of broken boardwalks.

With full stomachs were returned to the apartment, back to the couch, to the news, and to the reporters, hoping that they might have the answer to the most pertinent question of the hour: “When can people go home?”  A live press conference was soon to start, we were assured as our eyes lingered on the empty City Hall podium.  We waited, anxiously for information that might actually serve us, help us, and inform us.  We were tired of watching reporters splashing around.

Finally, Mayor Bloomberg centered himself behind the microphone.  The news anchors hushed.  Bloomberg’s mouth opened but there was no sound.  All that we heard was a bit of fumbling with microphones mixed with improvised apologies about technical difficulties.  And then, silence.  But, no fear, the reporters would eagerly fill the void.