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Ennis Daily News

Don’t run with your boots on

Friday afternoon was a bit humbling personally and professionally.
The incident began as a fairly typical afternoon here — there’s a lot of news to manage heading into a Sunday newspaper. Our goal is to make each Sunday a memorable edition, and that always proves challenging.

Two tones went out over the newsroom radio scanner just before 3 p.m. That sound sends chills up the spine.

When it’s just one tone, it’s an ambulance call, and a dispatcher will come over the channel and relay the information to the ambulance service — someone has fallen, had a heart attack, is reporting illness or mental issues, or a host of other conditions. We aren’t going to go chasing down individuals’ health issues unless they happen to serve in public roles in Ennis, so we wait to be sure it’s just one tone going out and then slowly tune it out.

When it’s two tones, my ears perk. That’s a fire. Friday’s tones were followed by a cool split second of silence that seemed to drag, and when the dispatcher’s voice came over the scanner, I was hanging on every word.

“Attention Ennis Fire Department, attention Ennis Fire Department,” she said methodically. “We have a structure fire at 804 NE. Main.”

The magic words are “structure fire.” They galvanize a reporter quickly — there’s no way to know the extent or outcome without being on the scene, so our instinct is to move and move quickly.

I was out the door with my camera and notebook before I realized I’d forgotten my keys.

Worse yet, I could have sworn that voice over the scanner had said 204 NE. Main St. Those six blocks made a big difference in the end.
By the time the sirens cranked up into their unique scream as engines from Fire Station No. 1 in downtown began to tear out of the station, I was running to my destination.

It’s neat to actually hoof it in this business if you’re in the shape for it. It gives it a feeling of history, like a reporter from the early 20th century in New York trying to make it back to the paper before the early deadline. You never intend to do it these days, you just end up with your gear in your hands and a goal in mind as you run.

If you were driving around NE. Main Street on Friday, you probably saw me.

As I ran, I realized I couldn’t see a single puff of smoke. Then I saw an engine crossing the tracks on Ennis Avenue.

Silly me, I needed to cross. Don’t tell anybody, but I jumped those tracks like I imagine a hobo in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road would have done, and then it was back to the running.

When the trucks passed, my error became extremely clear. Blocks from the scene of the actual fire, I had to make another split-second decision, and boy was it the wrong one.

“Keep running!”

I’ll think better of listening to that little internal voice in the future. Six blocks is a long time with cars passing and drivers rubber-necking to see the silly man running in his boots with a camera. The terrain was thankfully easy to negotiate, but the embarrassment wasn’t.

By the time 804 NE. Main St. came into view, it was easy to see there was no towering inferno, no front page picture to be had there Friday afternoon.

Thank God, honestly, because as much as people may believe journalists enjoy a bleeding story about people’s pain, there is no joy in talking to a family losing their home.

I snapped a few images just to make the effort somewhat worthwhile (in truth, it took me at least five minutes to catch my breath), and walked back to the paper.

All in all, it was a good reminder that a sedentary lifestyle is not good in the long run. That, and I need to be totally sure of the address before I bolt out of the door chasing a fire.

And I need to bring my car keys or I’ll end up running with my boots on.

Nick Todaro is the editor of the Ennis Daily News. He can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Jan 27 2010. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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