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February 14th, 2009
06:06 AM ET

When news breaks in the middle of the night

Editor's Note: To see more accounts from covering the breaking news of the crash of Continental Flight 3407 outside Buffalo, N.Y., click here.

Bright flames obscured everything around the crash site, as iReporter Valerie Woodruff's photo shows.

Bright flames obscured everything around the crash site, as iReporter Valerie Woodruff's photo shows.

Kay Jones
AC360° Coordinating Editorial Producer

Our program, Anderson Cooper 360°, had finished up Thursday night before we even heard that a plane had crashed outside Buffalo. In fact, many of us were already home.

I had arrived home around midnight and checked my blackberry before hitting the sack, as most of us do. There were 3 emails, so I didn't think much, until I saw the CNN BREAKING NEWS email. After reading "A Continental plane has crashed into a house in Buffalo, New York," I immediately called into Atlanta to see what I could do to help. The supervising producer told me that they wanted Anderson to come back in to anchor and asked if I could head up our guest bookings.

You see, CNN International was up and running, but the guest producer on duty at that point was in Hong Kong. I knew it'd be difficult for her to get interviews lined up quickly in Buffalo, and I also knew that I could help since I had unfortunately covered many crashes in the past 10 years.

I called Executive Producer Kathleen Friery and told her the latest. As I changed out of my volleyball clothes into something a bit more suitable for the office, I got confirmation that Anderson was on his way in, so I ran outside and hailed a cab. I made it to Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in 7 minutes. There is a bar across the street where some 360 staffers hang out after work, so I made an educated guess and found one of our video producers, Ashley, and a graphics producer, Kelly, in there. I begged them to come back in and help, and showed them the blackberry email to prove this was no joke.

As I came into our building, I called a former pilot who has been on 360 before, and his answer was priceless, "What took you so long?" He ended up staying with us throughout the 3 hours we were on air. Between making calls and gathering information for Anderson, I hopped onto a network conference call to plan our coverage.

As with any breaking news story, I found the hard reality of the story hit around an hour after I get home and decompress. I finally fell asleep around 6am after thinking about all the people I spoke with and those I didn't reach. I do think, as TV news people, some of us we go into a mode where we just do the job until we hand off to the next team. That was the case overnight, and on Friday I saw pictures from the scene and heard interviews of loved ones, eyewitnesses and others as if they were new.


Filed under: Clarence Plane Crash • Kay Jones
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Megan Dresslar - Shoreline, WA

    I was out of town, When I checked my e-mail and turn up my computer, I saw it was CNN breaking news, plane crashed into the house, I was so devastated and shock to hear bad news....... My thoughts and prayers with A Continental plane victim of families, I felt so bad for them who died on the plane crash into house...... My heart breaking for them!!!!
    Kay and Anderson,
    I like to say thank you to step in right away to breaking news in US to tell the audience that Continental plane crashed into the house. I am so appericate what you have a done for us...... I am so proud both of you...... Thanks so much for information..... I will check more update the plane crash and how happened on CNN.

    February 15, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  2. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    My son attended and graduated from SUNY Buffalo in Amherst. This tragedy brought to mind the point that anyone, anywhere can be the victim of a tragic accident. Your coverage was exceptional. My deepest sympathy to the families of those lost in this tragedy.

    February 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm |
  3. Lauren R, WV

    Good reporting, but such a sad event, to put it mildly.

    I'm now hearing today that the plane was on autopilot even as it crashed. I feel for the families of all killed–passengers. the man on the ground, and the crew, and yet this latest news would explain why so many seasoned pilots out there were puzzled and calling the accident a recoverable event.. I hope the FCC, in the future, mandating the pilot flying in even moderately icy conditions will mean that the lessons learned from this tragedy will save other lives in the future.

    February 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  4. Dulcie - Denver

    Out of town on business, I snapped the hotel TV off after AC360 and went to sleep. I was shocked & saddened to hear the news on American Morning.

    I really enjoy hearing about how things affect you behind the scenes and what it takes to get the job done. Many thanks to both you and Jack Black for showing what it takes to deliver the news. It's... comforting to know that aside from the professionalism of the entire team, you are all real people who are affected by the stories you work on. These little dispatches are very much appreciated as is the on-air professionalism. CNN has become my news source because of it.

    Thank you so very much.

    February 15, 2009 at 8:48 am |
  5. Perry

    My condolences to the families of those who perished.

    February 15, 2009 at 6:42 am |
  6. Eric

    They keep making such a big deal about which way the plane was facing. When a plane stalls for any reason, its not unusual for it to go into a spin. These small commuter aircraft can't heat the leading edge of their wings properly like larger passenger jets. This has happened before; when are they going to set new rules about not allowing these planes to land or takeoff in icing conditions, they simply aren't designed properly for it. That plane should have been diverted to another airport or not even allowed to leave Newark until conditions imporved in Buffalo. Once they hit that icing layer a few thousand feet up, the pilots didn't have a chance. The only way to survive it is to avoid it in the first place.

    February 15, 2009 at 1:58 am |
  7. Andrew Hinds

    I would just like to add onto what Bruce Hoff said. I have grown up in the news industry and I know how hard it is to keep things going all the time and making sure everything runs so seemlessly smooth. Good job and keep up the great work!!!!

    February 15, 2009 at 1:20 am |
  8. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    Hi, Kay!

    After so much 'turbulence', excitement, agitation, and rush and in a climate so sad, until that you fall asleep fast. So good!
    If it were me, the adrenaline would me impeded to sleep, even with all the sleep and fatigue.

    A good journalist has to be constantly in search of new information, new learning, new frontiers and new challenges.

    The day to day the journalist is always a lack of routine. It is a constant surprise, because its function goes of the agenda, from where you are, or even less tangible things. My father, who was journalist, spoke about this.

    The work of yours is excellent.
    Congratulations and thank you.

    February 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  9. Gloria, Brooklyn, Ny

    Yes, it was a team play effort as the tragedy developed, unfolded, and revealed itself.

    My heart and prays go out to the families.

    February 14, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  10. Larry

    It was spine-tingling to see the fans, officials, management & players of the San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres all take a moments silence at the HSBC in memory of the 50 people who perished that night. GOD bless.

    February 14, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  11. Marilyn - MO

    Dear Kay, I was up late Thursday night when CNN came on with word of the crash. At first I thought it had happened in another country when I heard the correspondent from Hong Kong, but then quickly realized it had happened outside of Buffalo. I was watching the coverage and the next thing I knew there was AC back on the air. I figured they must have called you all back in. My heart sank when I realized that this was no "miracle on the Hudson". Anyway, I stayed up until 2 am watching your coverage, and wanted to tell you it was some of your finest on air reporting. Anderson Cooper was calm and careful about getting only facts on the air. You all did a wonderful job under pressure. The story of the young man waiting for his sister and calling his mom in Florida was heart wrenching. What a tragedy for all involved. It seems like fate plays a large role in all our lives.

    February 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  12. Bruce Hoff

    With all the cameras and eyes on everything happening, it never ceases to amaze me how you folks scramble from normal life to news life to keep us current. Thank you for giving up your days and covering ours!

    February 14, 2009 at 12:48 pm |