The employees working at WMBB in Panama City, Fla., endured personal hardships while covering Hurricane Michael. A news director from another market sent to help recounts what he saw while there. “When they finally got a moment to stop and breathe, they had time to reflect. Their stories would break your heart yet inspire you at the same time. While their priority was helping their community and serving as a voice for others, they had their own stories to tell.”
Austin Kellerman is the news director at the Nexstar stations in Little Rock, Ark. But he spent a week or so helping Nexstar’s ABC affiliate in Panama City, WMBB, during and after Hurricane Michael.
He offered to share his experiences in this moving tribute to the employees who endured so much there.
“Would you mind if I take the day off tomorrow? I need to try to find a place to live.”
The question immediately stopped by me in my tracks. For a second or two, I had trouble responding while I processed what was being asked.
“Of course,” I replied. “What happened?”
The story that followed was all too common inside Nexstar ABC affiliate WMBB-TV in Panama City. Category 4 Hurricane Michael impacted just about every employee one way or another. A few lost their homes; many experienced damage. Some were dealing with family members now looking for new places to live.
I spent the last work week in Panama City helping guide the exhausted but determined team of journalists at the station. I’ve helped organize coverage of major news events before, but this was different. In this case, the employees themselves were also victims.
In the hustle and bustle, you would’ve had no idea. They were intense, determined, and focused. When they were in the zone, they looked just liked anyone else.
When they finally got a moment to stop and breathe, they had time to reflect. Their stories would break your heart yet inspire you at the same time. While their priority was helping their community and serving as a voice for others, they had their own stories to tell.
I documented a few of them below:
Sadly, there were many more stories just like these.
To read the rest of Kellerman’s blog, Survivors Serving Survivors: The Challenge Created By Hurricane Michael, click here.