I walked out on the roof of our parking garage around sunset. It wasn't really a twinkling of reflection, a quiet moment, a last sweet breath before the storm ... I wanted only to call my daughter on a cell phone and, for some reason, I believed the air between us would be clearest at that moment, at that height. It's a thousand miles from here to Utah, but tonight it seems much farther.
The daylight passed without offering much hope that Rita would either dissipate harmlessly or go someplace else. We made plans, re-made plans, made new plans and then threw them out in favor of other plans. The cruelty of a hurricane is not just the havoc it wreaks, but also the time it gives you to think about it ... which is simultaneously too much and not enough. We've committed to a special storm edition of our paper for Friday, and hope to keep publishing paper-newspapers off-site through the weekend. Time will tell. We don't know if The Beaumont Enterprise has ever missed a day's publication in its 125 years, and it leaves a sour taste in a newspaperman's mouth just to consider it.
The Web reassures us that we can publish effectively without a printing press. With a thimbleful of electrons and a creative arrangement of pixels, we can now publish anytime ... just like this blog. But the clicking of the keyboard somehow doesn't arouse the ink in my blood in the same way as hearing the rumble of the presses down below.
We continue to pare our staff down to a minimum, and are considering sending a team off-site to process stories, photos and pages safely away from the storm. I'll feel better when they are safe, and we are modestly more assured of making a paper.
I've been hearing from old friends and colleagues all day. That's comforting to know they're watching and worrying, too.
And the unsettled air between Beaumont and Salt Lake City lets my call through. Ashley is a photojournalist at the Salt Lake Tribune and she's covering a volleyball match when she picks up my call. She might have talked longer, but I know how it is: The story needs her attention at the moment, and we can talk later, when it's quiet and completely dark. I tell her all is well, don't worry, we're fine. It's the connection that mattered.