We have taken a head count and everyone is safe. Now that night has fallen, we can take stock and plan, to some degree, the next move. As stories are filed, they are edited and quickly posted at our Web site and sent to our shadow desk in Houston for the paper-newspaper that will come out tomorrow just hours after Rita makes landfall. We shifted our normal morning cycle to midday so the newspaper could contain some of the first daylight images of Rita's wrath.
Galveston's electricity has been dead more than an hour, but we're still on here. We've adopted the rhythms of impending calamity, like a guy with exactly 12 minutes to live. We get a series of little shots to get this right, and each one presents a new challenge. We are one a short runway and there's no scrubbing the take-off.
Tonight, a Time Magazine reporter asked me if I was afraid. I am, a little. But it's more a tool than a handicap. It's how I know I haven't lapsed into a mechanical existence. It's the pulse of my survival instinct. And it's not always a fear of the things I can't control; it is also a fear of failing at the things I can control.
On a newsroom bulletin board -- the old-fashioned kind made of cork -- somebody posted an advisory note that ran on the New York Times news wire tonight: Editors, we commend to your attention storm coverage from New York Times News Service partner news organizations, including Hearst Newspapers and Cox News Service, but especially articles from The Houston Chronicle and The Beaumont Enterprise, two Hearst papers in the path of Hurricane Rita. Their unique perspectives lend an authenticity to storm stories that cannot be matched.
Spirits rose. Somebody is seeing. Still, I'm not sure why we think we might deflect a 500-mile wide hurricane by throwing a scrap of paper worth 50 cents at it. Maybe it's like some many things we do in life: It just makes us feel that we did something.
I'm not inclined to give it too much thought tonight. Maybe another time, after the pieces are picked up.
The lights went out in Galveston an hour ago, but they're still on here, so there's a precious moment to do one more thing. Post a blog entry. Visit one of the frightened dogs somebody bivouacked in the darkroom. Answer an e-mail from a concerned friend. Call my son in Wyoming and reassure him that we'll be OK. The hard work will be sleeping.