WASHINGTON - Tom Misson is an Executive Producer at NewsChannel 5. Tom is field producing for Leon Bibb in Washington DC, for NewsChannel 5's coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
It's September 11, our last full day in Washington. Before leaving our hotel this morning, our crew here in DC watched the memorial ceremonies and commemorations on television, from New York City, Shanksville, Pa. and from The Pentagon. At 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. tonight, Leon Bibb will be reporting live from our perch at the Navy Exchange Gas Station -- a panoramic view of The Pentagon in the background.
Before driving into Washington to look for Clevelanders who have come to our nation's capital to remember 9/11, we need to drop-off the fifth man in our crew-- photojournalist Dave Hatala. He needs a few hours to make sure our live shots today our set, and the satellite truck finely tuned.
Now there are just the four of us in the car -- Leon, photojournalist Rich Geyser, super-intern Bill Gould and me. It's literally two left hand turns to get onto the freeway to take us into Washington. We needed just one before we found our first interview.
Rich spots a baseball cap with a blue top and red bill. "That's Chief Wahoo," I said -- giving Rich about 3 seconds to bounce the car tires off the curb.
I rolled down my window and yelled in the same motion, "Are you from Cleveland?!"
"No -- well, I used to be. I have relatives still there," proclaimed the man wearing the Indians cap (and, oh yeah, also wearing an American flag as a cape).
Danny was his name, and today was all about patriotism for him, hence the flag around both shoulders. He also roots for Cleveland -- the teams and the city -- which is also a good thing.
Eight minutes later we're on a Washington city street, when Rich just starts spitting out random words, "Car... Ohio license plate... in front."
"That's an 18 on the red sticker -- that's Cuyahoga," I said matter-of-factly.
At the next red light, Leon bolts from the car and runs up to the driver's side window. "Are you from Cleveland?" Leon asks.
"No, but my husband is, and this is his car... I can call him... we live just a few blocks away," said the women whose name we still didn't know.
Next thing you know we're following her to their apartment, where the woman's husband -- Damon -- eagerly comes out to greet us. "Leon Bibb, I know you."
Of course he does. Damon is from Bedford Heights, and has family in Shaker Heights. Damon was in high school at the time of the 9/11 attacks. He told us he remembers the emotion from that day, a day that he never forgets, a day that taught him never to take anything for granted.
Damon is a lawyer now in DC. (Oh, geez, I almost left out a key bit of information -- he's wearing a Browns throw-back shirt, getting ready to watch Sunday's game).
He also told us there's a Washington Browns Backers Association Chapter in DC, and that they're meeting today at a bar to watch the game. We'd be sure to find some current and native Clevelanders there.
Away we went again. The Browns Backers bar -- sort of ironic -- The Lucky Bar. (Okay -- we'll see how lucky it is for us). Didn't take long. Leon walks in and works the room as if he's running for the U.S. Senate. One man there -- Leon knew him, the man's father and grandfather. Another fan watching the game went to school with Leon's daughter.
The bar was filled with Browns fans, a handful down from Cleveland this weekend, the majority Cleveland transplants. One man was wearing a Browns jersey along with an American flag baseball cap.
"I'm celebrating freedom, and my right to watch the Browns game today," he said.
(Go Browns, and thanks guys, you helped us out big time).
One more stop -- The Mall on Washington. We needed to find people doing things in the city today. We park, we walk, we ask -- nothing for 10 minutes or so. We paused to wonder if we'd find anyone. While standing in front of the National History Museum, Leon spots a man wearing a "Toledo" baseball cap.
"Are you from Toledo?" Leon asked anxiously.
"No, Cleveland, well, Chardon," he said. (Awesome).
As it turns out, there are three couples from Chardon. They take a trip together each year, and this year picked Washington. When they realized it was the same weekend as the 9/11 anniversary, they became emotional.
"That's when it became emotional for me. I'm a very emotional person anyways, but this is a big day to remember those lives lost, and to celebrate the freedoms we still have," said the Chardon native.
We have what we need. What a story this is going to make I thought. I guess it's better to be lucky than good sometimes.
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