Staying On The Air Through a Storm of Historic Proportions

With the Capitol in the background, a jogger passes a fallen large oak tree on the National Mall near BBG headquarters.

With the Capitol in the background, a jogger passes a fallen large oak tree on the National Mall near BBG headquarters.

Rain was falling in sheets. Wind was whistling down a deserted Independence Avenue at speeds that mocked the 25 mph speed limit. Outside the Cohen building, streets were dark and eerily devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of midday traffic.

But inside at our Broadcasting Board of Governors and Voice of America (VOA) headquarters, hard by the Capitol, scant attention was being paid to the local impacts of this “Frankenstorm” called Sandy that raged outside our walls and windows.

Instead, legions of people were sharply focused on a mission that has, over the years, met every challenge: VOA was on the air.

It was with great pride that I personally witnessed the dedication of VOA journalists, producers and technicians who braved a storm that had shuttered federal agencies, closed mass transit, and turned Washington DC into a ghost town for two days.

BBG and IBB staff, including top managers, were on hand at headquarters, while many others kept operations moving apace by telecommuting from home.

I know, also, that similar challenges were being met across town at the headquarters of Radio Free Asia and across the river in Springfield, VA, where the Middle East Broadcasting Networks are headquartered.

Some members of our staff never left the Cohen building, taking their meals in a family-run, basement cafeteria that sporadically opened through the ordeal. There were folks sleeping on cots, on office couches, at a few nearby hotels.

As my colleague VOA Director David Ensor said afterwards “it was really an extraordinary team effort.” Every program went out as scheduled and some language services provided nearly non-stop storm coverage to affiliate stations and audiences around the world.

To everyone who helped the BBG meet the extraordinary challenges of the last few days, I want to say thank you and congratulations on a job well done.

 

 

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