Tempus – Latin word meaning time.
Halloween 2001. That was the year I went as “Time Flies.” I was dressed in all black, big-heeled boots, mini skirt, black long-sleeve shirt, and black angel wings. I wore an oversized, golden-colored watch-clock dangling from my neck. I had to explain my costume to everyone. I don’t know that they got it, but they’d act like they did. I thought it was cool.
That’s how you feel when you’re in the post-9/11 daze, 26-years old, and think Joseph Campbell’s Reflections on the Art of Living was written just for you. I first read him describe doors opening where none were before, I was flying on an airplane to Salt Lake City for a job interview.
It was February 2000, a different time (maybe a different time-space continuum even). But there I was with Campbell’s book, feeling my life change with every minute. I had picked it up only because Madonna had said it was the book she was reading in the latest Vogue-like magazine interview. I never missed any of those and I always tried to take her advice (it had served me well so far), so I bought a copy for my trip to SLC for a job interview to produce an entertainment show, something I always wanted to do. And I was tired of the news. I was beat down by it. I didn’t want to leave her or get a divorce and join the regular people of the world. But I needed to find a new way to live with her. The year before held a traumatic experience that I will never forget. Nothing special in terms of trauma that journalists deal with every single day somewhere in the world. But for me, well, it changed my life.
It was September 1999, a few days after my birthday. I was producing the 6 p.m. news at KTVT. A great job. A great promotion. The 6 p.m. news was one of the prized newscasts. It was a showcase. I had just turned 24 and had one of THE best shows you could get in one of the biggest markets. Things were going well, to say the least. But one night, I started questioning what it was I was doing. After working from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., not long after I got home I got a frantic call from the station. There was a shooting at a church in Fort Worth. I was one of the closest people. It was big and they needed me to drive over there as fast as I could. Now. I got back in my car and sped to the church. I got there quick. And I got right to work. Police and frantic people were all around. Blood seemed to be everywhere. I was unfazed. I gathered facts, called them in to the station and we were the first on air to report the horrific scene. Big win. A notch in my belt. A gunman had come into the Wedgwood Baptist Church and opened fire on a youth group. Seven people were dead. They were still looking for pipe bombs at the scene. Reporters showed up and I gathered blood-covered friends to talk for the cameras. I was on it. I was rocking at my job and I was proud. That was the same year as Littleton, Colorado. Deadly big tornadoes. Kosovo. Too many tragedies to name, they all just blur together into a long line of things I wrote about at work. I drove home sometime around midnight, the faces of the girls with the blood in their hair in my mind. I went to bed and set my alarm clock to be back at work in a few hours. I probably passed out. The next thing I know I was driving back to work for another full day of covering the shootings, only this time back at the station at a “safe distance.”
That day was a turning point. A mark on my clock. Y2K was quickly approaching and I could, for the very first time, not see this as something I wanted to do forever. I started thinking back to entertainment news. That sounded safe. It wouldn’t give me waking nightmares that I didn’t even realize at the time I was having. I was jaded. I didn’t cry. I just worked. That’s what you do. You try not to think past the job. You have to just work.
Off to SLC I flew in February 2000 with Campbell’s writings. I survived the ticking clock of Y2K (in a live news truck with Rene Syler downtown Fort Worth). And I realized it might just be time to see if there was more to life than working in TV news. Maybe just maybe I could have a job and an actual life outside of it that didn’t involve murder, death, tragedy, loss, and seeing the worst of the worst humanity has to offer up day in and day out.
When I got off the plane and looked around at the beauty of the city, of the mountains, the peace they brought, I saw Campbell’s door. I knew I was taking this job. How could I not? They chauffeured me around town. Wined and dined me. They offered me the job and I played hardball as if it was something I could take or leave. I got three weeks of vacation and a contract that ended with me making over $50,000 a year. And it involved nice things and nice people. Smiling faces and happy thoughts.
I walked through that door without ever looking back.
Tempus Fugit, I hoped.