My year can be summed up in one experience.
On Sept. 11, the hour was growing late and Hurricane Irma was all but done. It had blown in and out without widespread damage. Now, it knocked over some trees and interrupted power service for some, but for the most part the Chattahoochee Valley escaped.
As it was getting dark, I was headed home, a long day of reporting done. Then I got a call from a friend who said the city’s swift-water rescue folks were down below 12th Street at the river.
I sent the wife a text and told her that I might be a little while.
A photographer headed out the door just ahead of me. We got to the river and nothing was there. Then I was told something was going on near the 14th Street bridge. I was back in the truck, but something told me to swing back by the area near the River Club.
It was there I saw Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s car. Normally, I don’t pull over when I see that mayor’s vehicle, but this seemed a little odd for her car to be parked along the side of Bay Avenue.
Sure enough, the mayor was right there next to her car. I think it was the third time during the day’s storm coverage I had seen or talked to her.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
She pointed to an SUV parked near the River Club. She said that Geraldo Rivera was inside the vehicle. I am sure that my response was something quick and smart, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.
Then, I realized she was serious.
I walked toward the SUV and the passenger window starts to come down and, sure enough, Geraldo Rivera, the celebrity journalist and Fox News contributor, was there looking back at me.
Turns out he had landed in Charlotte and chased the storm to Columbus, even though the damage was much worse elsewhere.
It was at that exact moment, drawing on nearly 35 years of journalistic experience, you just can’t make this stuff up. And it wouldn’t be near as good if you did.
Then the mayor and Geraldo went into this detailed account of two daredevils jumping into the river and swimming the rapids. They called the rescue folks, but by the time emergency personnel reached the river, the two men were gone.
“I thought they were committing suicide at first,” Geraldo said at the time. “I couldn’t imagine what they were doing.”
Welcome to Columbus, Geraldo. We do some pretty crazy stuff down this way.
I got a quick video clip of Geraldo talking about the crazy dudes in the river and headed back to the office. I am convinced with the video and a photo of Geraldo, everyone at the office would have moved to have me committed. In fact, my editor, Kara Edgerson, thought I was lying until she saw the video.
It was good for a few laughs and a boatload of online traffic.
So, over the next week as everyone scrambles to recall the stories of the year, I can boil it down to one simple thing.
2017: The year I met Geraldo down by the river during a hurricane. It was that kind of year, friends.