Thanks for the memory

WESH/WKCF Studios

“Thanks for the memory
Of rainy afternoons, swingy Harlem tunes
Motor trips and burning lips and burning toast and prunes.
How lovely it was.”

I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in my years at WESH-TV, and I always thought of the tune Bob Hope made famous on someone’s last day.

I’ve heard many people who come to WESH from other stations say that it is unique when it comes to the camaraderie among those who work here.

For a sense of how strong that is, I called WESH home for more than 27 years, and there are plenty of people still working at the station who’ve been there for more than 30 years.

WESH is family, and I guess that’s why I never thought I would be walking out the doors of the station to work somewhere else.

But I’ve learned how much life experiences can change someone, and the things I’ve been through make my career move exciting.

As much as I’ve changed, I’ve also learned so much from my time at WESH. I entered the newsroom as an intern at the age of 18. I was there when the station moved their Daytona Beach and Orlando studios. I was different. Television was different.

I was playing miniature golf on a date on Aug. 2, 1990, when the first bombs fell on Baghdad at the start of the Persian Gulf War. I rushed to the station to help out. In the weeks afterward, I remember the networks breaking into programming to watch Patriot missiles take out Scud missiles launched from Iraq.

I was producing the 11 p.m. news on the night of Feb. 22, 1998, when a series of tornadoes hit Central Florida and killed 42 people. I was in the control room throughout the night, and our first live shot was done by our sports anchorman, Buddy Pittman, who jumped in a live truck and went to Winter Garden after hearing that an apartment complex was seriously damaged.

I remember sitting at my desk watching the coverage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and meteorologist Mike O’Lenick and I both wondered if it was really a passenger jet. I heard Claire Metz scream, “Oh my God,” when the second plane hit and everything seemed much more sinister.

It was on my birthday, Feb. 1, 2003, when I was waiting for Columbia to land before I could leave to go to my party with family. Columbia never made it to the runway at Kennedy Space Center, and I missed my own celebration to make sure the coverage was handled on WESH.com.

They were crazy times, and I learned early in my career that news can happen anytime, regardless of what plans you may have or personal situations that are ongoing.

It can wear you down, and I won’t miss the crazy schedules that sometimes go along with a career in the news industry.

Jim Payne, Jeff Cousins, Meredith McDonough
Enjoying time with Jim Payne and Meredith McDonough on my final day at WESH-TV.

My wife once said that if she were ever going to write a book, it would be titled, “How NASA Ruined My Marriage.” I spent many days at Kennedy Space Center covering shuttle launches for the website, and if the launch was scrubbed, it just meant going back out for the next attempt, and the one after that.

But part of me also wonders how I’ll feel when the next big story breaks, and I’m not in the newsroom learning all the latest details as they happen. That need to know doesn’t just go away instantly.

At least I can rest easy knowing that all my friends at WESH will keep digging and bringing me those details I crave while I watch on TV or online from the comfort of my living room, with my wife and child by my side.

This news veteran is trading in his keyboard to help parents face more personal challenges when their kids are hospitalized, and they’re looking for answers they won’t find on TV.

“Awfully glad I met you
Cheerio and toodle-oo
Thank you
Thank you so much.”

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