Victims, neighbors, rescue personal and fire police are less likely to lash out at fire police, rescue personal and victims than they are at people who are gathering news.
I rationalize my presence as a community punching bag as a public service. Sometimes, I can turn my presence into a positive for those affected by the situation.
Every incident is a clean slate in how I deal with people. Every new moment has the potential of grace. The reality is that no matter how angry and disagreeable people are towards me, there will be a human in some form covering news where I am standing, and I can be the one that adds positive rather than more negative.
I normally approach a scene with a certain amount of dread for the negative energy that may unfold. In reality, it falls somewhere between remarkably ugly and surprisingly pleasant.
Sunday, a vehicle collided with a Codorus Township business and burst into flames at the intersection of Routes 516 and 216. A couple living above Manchester Motors fled their apartment with their 150 pound Rottweiler.
As I approached the scene slowing down, a Jeep Cherokee that was tailgating me the whole way south on Route 516 from Jefferson failed to notice I was slowing down for a fire scene because of a curve, slams on the brakes, and veers around me skidding to a wobbly stop in front of the fire policeman, and then turns left onto the cross street. With the commotion, I miss a good possible parking nest bored out of the 3 foot, hard snow banks that line all the paved surfaces on this rural stretch of road.
You can’t just dump a car in the road when you arrive at a scene, it’s a hazard, and you can’t just park in the middle of someone’s plowed drive. And I could have 8-wheel-drive Sunday and it wouldn’t have mattered. The snow was high and hard as a rock.
I circle back and pull into the drive of the potential parking spot I just saw and knock on the door. A friendly grandmother answers the door and offers me parking.
I pass the fire policeman on foot, he says anything. I think witnessing the near miss and my potential usefulness as a Jeep stop earned me a pass. Road access sometimes ends with fire police.
Climbing a quarter mile hill and then climbing a giant snow mound across the street from the fire, I record the firefighters knocking down the blaze without anyone confronting me.
The couple, who lived in the apartment, is talking to the reporter below me in an SUV. I circle back to them after tweeting a still image and posting a short raw video. The window is open just a crack, and while I would like to ask them to roll it down because I would like to record some video, I pause.
It’s hard to gauge how people will react to you in the face of a disaster. I ask them, “Would you like to tell me about accidents at this intersection? We do short videos.” Window rolls down and John Scott tells me how there are many crashes and they skid here and there (pointing) but don’t hit the building. Then I say, “but today was different” and Mr. Scott retells the story I came to hear.
Scott was worried that he wouldn’t find another apartment that would take his 150 lb. Rottweiler. The extremely friendly dog licked my fingers through cutoff gloves, oozing his girth on the laps of his owners from the back seat. I said, well maybe someone will see him in the photo and see what he is like. I’m not really a dog person and I wanted to take him home.
The fire chief of Lineboro offers a closer look at the fire scene after giving a statement. A wonderful gesture from a busy professional.
Back down the hill, past the fire police, I grab the York Sunday News lying in plastic wrap half under snow in the drive of my parking host and finish the delivery to the grandmother’s door. She smiles and tells me she is the future grandmother-in-law of our Flipside editor.
The needle of my dread gauge for this incident pins on surprisingly pleasant.