Life and death

May 23, 2011 1:39:36 PM PDT
I'll admit I'm more than a wee bit surprised, even taken aback, by the number of peeps who sent me messages saying, in effect, "na, na, na, na, na - so we're all alive Bill, and it's past 6 p.m. on Saturday."

There was never a nanosecond of doubt in my mind - or I suspect in the minds of 99.999999999% of the planet - that "The End" was here.

But the notion went viral on the Internet, and as a news story, it was difficult to pay it no attention. Although, trust me, we discussed it.

Nonetheless, and to prove just how personal some viewers take our newscasts, the emails I got seemed to suggest that I was promising the end of the world. I promise - I wasn't. Hopefully, that's the end of the end nonsense. Unless of course the 89-year-old evangelical Christian broadcaster who somehow came up with the cockamamie notion decides he owes the world an apology. Or, given his silence since the end fizzled, maybe he should just keep quiet.


That's the prelude to tonight's 11, which we always knew would air.

And we'll start the note about the 11 p.m. newscast with a personal note: I was cleaning out my files the other day - a spring-cleaning kinda thing - and came across a column I wrote for the L.A. Times on the first Mother's Day after my mom died of lung cancer. It was an emotional article, at least for me, and I handed it to my eldest daughter because I don't think she had ever read it.

"Your writing hasn't changed," she said in that 18-year-old tone that can masked its intent: I couldn't tell if it were a compliment or a snotsversation. Maybe it was both.

But it got me thinking about writing style. Is it a good thing that one's writing doesn't change over the years? The best I could come up with was the octopus answer: On the one hand, it shows consistency; on the other hand it could show a set-in-your-way approach that doesn't grow or change with the times.

I concluded that it is what it is, and that the main point was that I missed my mom.

But there's a sub theme here, and it has to do with smoking, on this, the day New York City goes smoke-free in public places like parks and beaches and gathering spots such as Times Square.

I like that my kids didn't grow up the way I grew up, watching both my parents smoke. How could a child not think it's cool when their parents and their aunts and uncles all have cigarettes dangling from the fingers, or lips?

These days of course it's not cool, it's gross. But back then, smoking was in. My family produced a skit for my birthday last year, portraying me as a child, and my mom smoking around me. "Relax," my mom (played by my daughter) said to my dad (played by my son). "Even our pediatrician smokes. They wouldn't sell these things if they were bad for you." And that's what peeps believed back then. Pathetic as it seems now. Pediatricians smoked, so of course it's okay. And, hey, why would an American corporation sell you something that could kill you? C'mon.

We know better now.

But it came at a huge price. My dad had a lung removed, thanks to smoking. And my mom, at the age of 61, died of lung cancer, thanks to smoking.

My kids did not grow up watching me smoke, a habit which I started at the ripe old age of 13 and continued, with various intervals of years off, until I was 30. Stupidly. (Although I guess I should now look at it as getting smart at 30.)

All of which is a long and roundabout way of saying that I'm not unbiased when it comes to smoking. So that applause you hear is from me when it comes to New York City's latest crackdown on smoking. Lighting up is now banned in City parks, beaches and "public plazas" such as Times Square. It's Mayor Bloomberg's newest attempt to prevent exposure to second-hand smoke.

We'll have reaction tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest from Joplin, Missouri, where half the city was severely affected by the tornadoes that ripped through last night. 116 people, and counting - that's the death toll so far there. And this round of tornadoes has made this year the deadliest tornado season since 1953 - with at least 454 people killed in 50 twisters in the South and Midwest. Meteorologist Lee Goldberg explains the tornado swarms, and has his AccuWeather forecast about storms coming into our area tomorrow.

And what a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do lesson in town in New Jersey.

A police chief apparently had his car stolen by what we're told was an emotionally disturbed person. And why was this woman able to steal the car? Turns out the keys to the marked police vehicle were tucked in the visor. She took off, lights and sirens blaring, and finally ran into another car. Then she took off driving again, and caused two more accidents. Somehow she got smart and handcuffed herself to the steering wheel, and that's how cops found her. And the chief's car.

And our investigative reporter Sarah Wallace has the disturbing story of a breakdown in the criminal justice system. A man from Brooklyn, convicted of assault charges that were dismissed before he ever got into court, spends more than five years behind bars anyway. He is waiting to get out, but for some reason the D.A. is stalling. Sarah calls it an embarrassment for the prosecutor, and a miscarriage of justice for this wrongly imprisoned man.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.


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