Remembering the 'Fro'; Elevator robbery arrest...

Behind The News
December 15, 2010 11:43:13 AM PST
There's a picture in my office, of me, looking quite different from the way I do these days. My hair - I'm not sure "long" is the right word. "Big" may be more accurate. It was shoulder wide, not shoulder length, furry and ball-like. "Jew-fro" is what we used to call it. I bring it up because it was taken 36 years ago today.

Why I remember that date is, I suppose, quite a backstory. I won't bore you with the entire epic. Suffice to say, I remember that day because the picture shows me on a stage, speaking into a microphone. The photo doesn't show whom I'm speaking to - but as I remember it, there were 5,000 people outside the Miami Beach Convention Center, protesting the war in Vietnam. I was the master of ceremonies for the opening day protest rally.

Inside the hall, delegates had just convened the 1972 Republican National Convention to nominate Richard Nixon for a second term as President. Two months and a week before that night, the President's men had broken into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. They were busted in what at first the White House described as a "second-rate burglary."

Many knew better.

And that little burglary eventually led to the resignation of Mr. Nixon, after a painful, scandal-plagued Constitutional showdown between the legislative and executive branches of government.

They were heady times - and the Watergate era between that night in Miami 36 years ago today and the next two years before Nixon resigned in disgrace, is what burnished my love for journalism.

It was not a typical road, from anti-war activist to reporter. But it was my road.

I've been thinking about that time, as I prepare to leave Saturday to cover the Democratic Convention in Denver.

I've been thinking about how times have changed, and the ways that they haven't; thinking about the ways I've changed, and the ways I haven't.

I've held up pictures of myself from that time to college and high school students when I speak at their graduating ceremonies - held them up to graphically and I dare say dramatically describe how one simply doesn't know where life will take them. And I urge them to embrace the uncertainty that life offers, despite our best attempts to plan the heck out of it.

I felt like that then, back on Aug. 21, 1972 in the oppressive mugginess of Miami Beach. I feel like that now, in the unseasonable cool of Aug. 21, 2008 in New York City.

I guess that's one thing that hasn't changed. And I hope we all embrace the uncertainty of life as we hurdle forward with it.

We are preparing our coverage of the first convention in this election year - an exciting and historic year, to be sure. I'll be there, as will Sandra Bookman, our weekend anchor, and Dave Evans, our political reporter.

I'll write this column from Denver next week - but it will take a different form. I'll write it after the 5 p.m and 6 p.m. newscasts, before the 11 o'clock news; and I'll write another version, after the 11 p.m. newscast.

Speaking of the 11, tonight we'll look at the countdown to the announcement of who will be Barak Obama's running mate. He told USA Today that he's already decided - no shocker. It would be a shock if he hadn't already decided.

Also at 11, we look at the scathing report from the FDNY about the deadly fire at the former Deutsche Bank tower last August.

Everyone is to blame -- that's the take-away at first blush. But it's not really a good-enough explanation. Maybe that's why the Manhattan District Attorney is now investigating the fire as a criminal case - with possible charges coming against people, businesses and official agencies.

It was a perfect storm of mess ups. The building, filled with toxic materials and under demolition for years because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, had not been inspected by the Fire Department for more than a year. And why in the world didn't firefighters know that the standpipe supplying water to fire hoses didn't work? Ditto the query for the confusion in radio communications between the firefighters - communication problems that caused crucial time to be wasted, problems that should have been solved after the disastrous Fire Department communications snafus of Sept. 11.

We're also covering that brutal attack on an 85-year-old woman in her elevator in Brooklyn - an attack that was captured on video tape. The woman - now speaking to Eyewitness News. And the suspect has now been arrested. And the arrest itself is quite a story. A detective who saw the surveillance video says he recognized the attacker from a similar assault years six years before. The suspect served five years in prison for that crime.

Cornelius Abson is now under arrest, and, according to cops, implicated himself in last week's attack and he's been linked to at least one other, similar, assault. There might be others, cops say.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, the AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join us, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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