The past few days have been absolutely crazy. Not only have I been working on a research paper and portfolio for class, but I have also been spending long hours at work and trying to find time to see things around the city that I have missed. With only another week in D.C. the time crunch is in full effect and I am certainly feeling it.
Last Monday my friends and I took the time to get out to a Nationals baseball game which was very fun. The game featured the Nationals vs. Cardinals and was very cheap compared to ticket prices in the Northeast. Also, it happened to be $1 hot dog night which didn’t hurt! Although the Nats lost the game, it was a great cheap way to hang out with friends and enjoy America’s pastime in the nations capitol.
This past Saturday I worked an event that CBS was putting on. It was a cocktail party preceding the White House Correspondents’ Dinner at the Washington Hilton. Never in a million years did I think that I would be involved in an event like this during the course of my internship. The dinner is a who’s who of politicians, celebrities and reporters, all taking a night off to relax and hear the President tell some jokes. I was helping out with CBS’s pre-party by attending one of the doors to make sure no one snuck in.
I thought it would be a pretty simple night, just stand there and do my job. But as the slew of celebrities passed by me I felt that I did not belong in this crowd. The first shock was when Kevin Spacey and Steven Spielberg passed by having a leisurely chat. Next came Katy Perry, then the “Gangnam Style” star Psy and then Tracy Morgan. The names just kept passing by and I was at a loss for words. I was working so I was not able to take any photos but as they passed by a few of them chatted with me and my coworker, including “CBS This Morning” anchor Gayle King who was very friendly. After our job was over and everyone had made their way to the dinner portion of the night, my coworkers and I got together to talk about the night and even get some pictures on the red carpet. The night seemed like a blur as I never expected to be a part of something like this. But I am grateful for the experience and happy that I had the opportunity!
Last week was one that I will never forget. The story begins on Monday, April 15th. Mondays are usually the day of the week when I have class but on this specific day my professor had planned to take our class on a site visit to CNN’s DC Bureau. I was very excited to go on a tour there, not only because I am interested in journalism, but also because some of CNN’s biggest shows are filmed there including The Situation Room and The Lead. Because of the change in plans for the day, our class schedule had been changed and we were to meet up near CNN at around 4 p.m. As I was walking with my friends to the Metro I remember saying “what a slow news day to be visiting CNN.” Little did I know that it was all about to change. Once on the Metro I received a text from a friend saying “are you seeing this, this is crazy” and I instantly checked my Twitter feed to see what was going on. I saw a tweet reading “two explosions rock the finish line at the Boston Marathon.” I read it aloud to my friends and we all kind of shook our heads in confusion. Was this an accident? Are there injuries? Is this a big deal? All those questions were answered once we exited the Metro and regained cell service. On our walk over to CNN we used our phones to search social media and check in with news apps to find out anything that we could about the situation in Boston.
Once at CNN it really started to sink in how big of a deal this was. For the first time we could actually see what had happened. We were watching the explosion, and then another one. People running, screaming, chaos all over the street. I sent a few texts to friends in the Boston area to make sure they were ok. We went on with the tour as scheduled although I think everyone was a little detached as we glued ourselves to any television screen to see what was happening next.
The next day, Tuesday, I went back to my internship at CBS. I remember getting there in the morning and seeing how hectic the newsroom already was with information pouring in from everywhere. As the week progressed it just kept getting busier as more answers were released, more questions appeared.
When I woke up on Friday morning I checked my Twitter feed right away as I had been doing all week to get the latest on the story. First thing I saw was “Boston Bombing suspect involved in shootout with police” and I knew this was going to be an important day. When I got to CBS at around 9:30 a.m. it was already on-air with a Special Report. We ended up staying in a Special Report for much of the day and were on edge as the story literally unfolded before our eyes. Police were evacuating and searching a major portion of Cambridge and Watertown for most of the day while the entire city was virtually on lockdown. When we went on air that night for our broadcast of the CBS Evening News, we were planning on doing a double show, so an hour long instead of half an hour. As the first show ended and the second began, the entire game changed. We got word from our people in Boston that shots were being heard in a neighborhood and that they thought the suspect was near. They broke out of the Evening News into yet another Special Report to cover this story live. Word came in that the suspect was hiding in a boat in someone’s driveway, police engaged and then the news everyone had been waiting to hear all week was given. The suspect had been caught.
The mood of last week was one that I really cannot describe. In one sense I was horrified by what had happened in Boston. When something of that nature happens so close to home it is hard to ignore it and just pass it off as another news story. But at the same time, this sort of event creates one of the most exciting atmospheres in a newsroom. One full of stress because there is so much work to do, excitement as new details come in and pride at the end of the day when you take a step back and look at the final product. I can honestly say that last week was the most chaotic/exciting week that I have had thus far. Our coverage of the day’s events wrapped up at around 11 p.m. Friday evening. For a short time everyone was able to take a break from all the chaos and just thank all of those around who made the week’s reporting possible. As sad as the week was, I could not have been more proud to be a part of the team who covered this event in our nation’s history. It is a time that I will never forget and one that I will certainley take with me as I move on from this internship.
One of the biggest differences between spending a semester in DC compared to in Rhode Island is the weather. It can be windy at times, but not quite as blustery as the Roger Williams campus can get. It was pretty cold during the winter here, but we never got any serious snow or sleet, New England wasn’t so lucky this year. And most importantly, temperatures in DC have already risen above 70 degrees, now that would be an oddity in Rhode Island…in March.
But the best surprise of all came on Wednesday when the temperatures topped out at 90 degrees. Yes, 90 degrees on April 10th. Personally I like summer and I like those types of temperatures so I did not have a problem with it. When I woke up around eight a.m. that morning I opened my bedroom window and it was already very hot out. I went to work for a few hours and when my day was over I knew I could not just go to my apartment and sit inside, I had to enjoy the rare summer blast.
Luckily the cherry blossoms had just blossomed on the tidal basin and I knew that was the perfect place to go for a walk. The cherry blossoms are famous in DC as they were a gift from Japan. Every year when they bloom people come from all over the world to see the trees which turn the tidal basin into a burst of pink and white. I hadn’t gotten a chance to see the trees yet so this was the perfect opportunity.
The cherry blossoms aren’t just a nice sight to see in the city. They represent a friendship between two nations that have had a very long history with one another. I am glad that I finally got the chance to see this sight and to be able to take it in on such a rare but beautiful day.
Two and a half months into my semester in D.C. and I still cannot believe I am here. Every day as I am walking through the city I see different sights that are now familiar to me. The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, they are all familiar places by now but still blow me away. I’m a sucker when it comes to sightseeing, and D.C. is the perfect place for that.
Just last week I celebrated my 21st birthday. It was weird celebrating a birthday so far away from home with a bunch of friends who were strangers to me just two and a half months ago. My parents came down for the weekend and we celebrated the day by sightseeing and indulging in some of the great tastes that the district has to offer including my favorite BBQ spot. And to top it off, my friends threw me a surprise party, which they actually succeeded in keeping a secret. All in all It was a great weekend, one of the many that I will take away from this experience.
Now switching gears to my internship. So far I have gotten to do some pretty cool things. Visit the White House, see the President speak and spend a day at the U.S. Capitol. But last week I got the chance to see history in the making. Last Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases having to do with same-sex marriage. The two cases had to do with the Proposition 8 case in California and the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA. CBS had a few crews out both days covering the event and capturing the action outside as the actual courtroom is off-limits to cameras. I was at the court during Wednesday’s arguments dealing with DOMA.
The scene outside was chaotic to say the least. Hundreds of people of all ages, races and nationalities had shown up to either show their support for same-sex marriage or to protest it. Rallies were planned on the steps of the court including speakers from various human rights groups and members of congress. As crazy as the sea of people was, it was quite remarkable to see American democracy in action. Here we were smack dab in the middle of our nations capital with hundreds of people protesting, mostly in a peaceful manner, for what they believe in. Luckily our camera crews were in specially marked off areas barricaded by metal fences so I did not have to be crushed in the masses, but from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I stood outside and just observed the chaos that was the outside of s Supreme Court argument.
Once the court had adjourned for the day, the lawyers and other personnel inside the courtroom came down the front steps to cheers from the crowd. I was lucky enough to listen in on a press conference that included Edie Windsor, the woman who has been at the center of the case for decades. On this particular day there was not much work for me to do, however I am so grateful that I was able to be there in the moment and witness history being made. The decision will not be handed down by the court until sometime around June, but the arguments are just as important and I am glad that I was able to be a part of that day in any capacity.
The last few weeks have been blur. I have been in D.C. since January 16th, two more months now, and it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for more than a week or two. The excitement of this city still appeals to me and that goes for my internship as well. In the last few weeks I have done everything from visit various congressmens’ offices to attending a few basketball games and I’ve been able to meet a lot of great new people.
One event in particular that I had the opportunity to attend was a speech that President Obama made in Newport News, Virginia where the President made remarks on the looming sequestration cuts. The event was at a shipbuilding yard in Newport News where they build aircraft carriers and submarines. The venue itself was quite the site, however that paled in comparison to the fact that the President of the United States would be speaking there shortly. The day itself was mostly full of traveling from D.C. to Newport News, a three hour bus ride, and setting up equipment. Seeing a President speak in person was something that I had been wanting to experience my entire life. I worked the inauguration for my internship, but I was not directly at the ceremony so I did not get to see the President speak that day. The speech itself was fairly straightforward and urged Congress to work on a solution so that the sequester would not go into effect. It was an overall great experience seeing the President speak and reminded me why I love this field of work.
The so-called “sequester” that congress has been dealing with is the talk of the town in D.C. Another thing that I keep hearing since moving to this city was the idea that “D.C. does not handle weather very well”. Over the last few years the district has not had a serious snowstorm. But this past week D.C. began to prepare for just that. The storm was dubbed the name “snow-quester” to mock all the talk of the actual sequester. Meteorologists predicted that the storm would bring at least six inches of snow with up to as many as ten. The federal government shut down as well as offices around the city and D.C. seemed to be essentially on lock down, when nothing happened. No snow fell, only rain, bringing many people to once again make fun of the fact that the city cannot handle weather and overreacts to the slightest reports. So what do you get when you mix the sequester with a no-show snowstorm?…Snow-quester.
This past weekend D.C. switched from reports of snowstorms to unseasonably high temperatures. Saturday and Sunday saw highs around 60 degrees which were a great change from the wind and cold that we have had lately. My friends and I took advantage of the great weather by heading out to the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday morning. This was actually my third time at the gallery. It is a huge museum but features some awesome paintings, sculptures and digital art. One of the highlights of the gallery is the section containing presidential portraits of every United States President. It was really neat to see how each president was portrayed and how the office of president has evolved over the years. After we were down browsing the art we headed over to Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery is perched on a hill just across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. Although it is a cemetery, the location and design of the place is so peaceful and you can’t help but feel a certain calmness when you are standing up on that hill looking out at our nations capital. We visited the grave sites of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Ted Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We arrived just in time to watch the last changing of the guard of the day which was a very moving ceremony that I have always wanted to watch in person.
Those are just a few examples of what D.C. has to offer…and there are still so many more to check out! It is already March and April is approaching quickly. Time to make the most of my springtime adventure.
It has already been one month since I moved down to DC for the semester and what a month it has been. I have visited countless museums, walked for miles around the National Mall and ate at some of the great restaurants that this city has to offer.
All of the sites that I have seen in the last month were great memories. The people that I have met and become friends with are even greater memories that I will take away with me when I leave in May. But one moment that will always stick out as a highlight of this semester in Washington will be last Wednesday when I completed one of my life’s dreams. I finally had the chance to visit the White House.
I was able to meet up with one of the producers I work with and get a press pass for the day. After going through security, I was finally on the other side of the fence that I have been looking at for the past few weeks. As I walked up the driveway towards the West Wing I could not believe where I was stepping. So many famous faces had walked the same path that I was currently on and I could not wrap my head around it. I was led into the press room where all the members of the media work out of. The area was very small and cramped and filled with reporters and cameramen typing away on computers and rigging different pieces of equipment. I was able to go into the press briefing room and watch the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney deliver the days briefing which to me was the coolest thing as I had only seen these sort of things on TV. After the briefing we were led out back to the South Lawn where the Presidents helicopter, Marine One, would be landing as he was coming home from a speech he gave earlier in the day. As we walked out side I recognized some famous landmarks in the yard like the Rose Garden and the Oval Office. As we were waiting for the helicopter to appear, I turned around and saw that the Presidents dog, Bo, was sitting by some members of the media. I quickly ran over only to have him get up and make his way back towards the residence. Before he got inside I was able to pet him real quickly before he disappeared.
After a lot of waiting, the helicopter finally came into view just behind the Washington Monument. As it descended onto the South Lawn, I was thrown back by the wind generated by the helicopters blades. It finally landed, and the President stepped out. I could not believe that I was standing such a short distance from the President of the United States. I was sure to snap a few pictures as he made his way from the helicopter to the Oval Office where he quickly went inside of the finish his days work. I left the White House shortly after that but not without my head spinning for the remainder of the day. I could not quite grasp what had just happened. The entire visit seemed to last only about an hour and a half but to me it seemed like a blur.
It’s moments like there that remind me of why I decided to go away for a semester, and DC in particular. The opportunities that I am creating for myself are ones that I am trying to take advantage of and ones that I know I may never get again. Sometimes I wonder what the first month of this semester would’ve been like if I was back at RWU. But I know that I am where I need to be. One month down, three to go.
Everyone knows the address 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The President’s House. The People’s House. The White House. In my twenty years of existence on this earth, I have never seen this house in person. That is until Sunday, January 13, 2013. I moved down to D.C. the day before to start my semester here where I will be interning for CBS News and taking classes through the Washington Internship Institute (WII). But Sunday was not about work, it was a day to relax and sight-see with my family before they had to start the journey back up north to New England.
Seeing the White House for the first time really put things into perspective for me. I’ve been a fan of history and current events my whole life. So many important events and people have passed through the halls of the building that I was now standing in front of. It has always been a dream of mine to become a reporter and to report on major events, people and locations. This was the first time that I really felt as if I’m on my way to reaching that goal.
Just about a week after my first time seeing the White House was the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. In 2009, I wanted to be in D.C. for President Obama’s first inauguration. However, being in high school at the time, I did not have the resources to venture down to Washington. Instead I went to a local restaurant that was having a viewing party and I watched the President take his oath from there. Fast forward four years and now I am in D.C. working the event for CBS News! Just typing that line blows me away because I cannot believe how fast time has flown by. My job on inauguration day was basically to man the green room in the location where CBS was filming its broadcast and also to help out with whatever needed to be done.
We were only about a block from the Capitol building and I made sure to run up to the roof during the President’s oath of office. I will never forget the moment. Standing on the roof, Washington Monument to the right, the U.S. Capitol to the left, and a sea of people down below. Although I could not see the President, I could faintly hear the oath through the speakers spread out on the National Mall. The oath ended with an eruption of cheers from the estimated one million people in the crowd and was followed by a 21-cannon salute.
That night I stuck around to watch Scott Pelley deliver the CBS Evening News live from the rooftop of our location with the Capitol in the background. Just a week earlier I was viewing the White House for the first time and now I was in the company of true professionals like Scott Pelley and Bob Schieffer. My first week in D.C. was an unbelievably hectic but eye-opening experience. This semester is shaping up to be a busy one, but one that I will never forget!
Scott Pelley and Me on the right