February 6th, 2008
08:33 PM ET

Covering the Tornadoes

When I woke up this morning I never expected to hear what I did about the massive devastation from tornadoes.  Nearly 70 of them reported.  Our overnight note put the death toll at 27 – it's now more than 50.I gasped when I read that.  Growing up in the Midwest, tornadoes have always been one of my greatest fears.  I was just a little kid when I used to sit with my family, sort of huddled together on the 4th of July, inside our cabin in Wisconsin.

Several times I sat there and cried in total terror as "the tornado" went right across the lake just steps away from our front door.  Boats were pitched around and flipped upside down, docks were destroyed, the beach became filthy with piles of trash blown all the way from the other side of the lake.

I actually had a "tornado kit" that was supposed to keep me occupied and feeling a little more at ease.  It was a 5-gallon ice cream pail filled with my favorite things: Barbies, my stuffed animals, crayons and books.  I would grab it and run down to the basement any time it became green and eerily still outside.

This morning when I made my way to the anchor desk, I did wonder about the children.  Did they have enough warning? Were they as terrified as I used to be?

Some people think that when we newscasters are doing the news we are detached and unfeeling.  But as the death toll grew today, it seemed with every interview we did all I could think about was the kids.  The 11-year old girl who died with her parents in the car in Arkansas.  Nothing they could do to protect each other.

I just landed in Tennessee now, going to Lafayette to do the program from there in the morning.  Not sure what we'll find, it always looks different when you're there.  I had to come to see how the people are coping. How the kids are doing.

– Heidi Collins, CNN Anchor

Program note: Watch Heidi's reports from Tennessee on CNN Newsroom starting at 9a ET

Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Heidi Collins • Tornadoes