MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- Two nights ago, I was sitting at my desk, making a to-do list for the next day, when I heard someone say, "Oh my god, look at this bridge collapse on TV." As I turned my head to see what was happening, I heard a voice in the distance say, "Alyssa, isn't this where you're from?" I stared at the TV while my brain clumsily attempted to compute what I was seeing, but all I could fixate on was the word "Minneapolis" in the banner. That was all I needed for my heart to start pounding.
Even though I grew up in Minneapolis, leaving just two years ago for this job, my brain started to freeze and I couldn't figure out which bridge had collapsed. All of a sudden, the tangled web of highways racing through my head unwound, and my heart dropped. My mom had recently moved to a condo on the river downtown, blocks away from the bridge. I frantically started dialing her cell number and it was busy. I hung up and dialed my dad, my step-mom, my sister, friends, cells, landlines ... all busy signals. I have never heard a worse noise in my life.
Moments later, my dad got through to me and let me know that he and the rest of my family were OK. What he said next would become a theme I'd hear from friends and family again and again: "I would have been on that bridge at 6 p.m. tonight if I hadn't decided to pick a file up from the office in the morning instead of swinging by on the way home."
Less than 24 hours after this conversation, I was standing on the roof of the Minneapolis Holiday Inn, staring in the distance to the void that used to be a bridge. It reminded me of the pit at ground zero. I couldn't believe how vast it appeared in person.
I've never been able to truly understand a story from the aerial footage that helicopters shoot. For me, it's about a single moment or image. One of the TV guests I was speaking with said that right after the bridge collapsed she watched as a car that was clinging to the road crept over the edge and plunged in to the water. That, I get.
Helping cover a story like this when it's so close to your heart is a surreal experience. I want to show my colleagues everything and make them understand what a special city this is. I want to help them tell the story well. While gathering guests and stories for our show, I want to look people in the eye and say simply, "I get it."
Forty-eight hours ago, I was sitting in New York, fretting over the fact that I never seem to make much progress on my to-do list, and in a split second, with razor sharp focus, there was only one thing I cared about. Just one.
-- By Alyssa Caplan, "360" Associate Producer