The robotic buzz of the alarm rang through my ears at 3: 30 a.m. and truly made me wonder why I had ever volunteered to accompany Channel One News on assignment to Woodstock '94. I rolled over in an attempt to stir some form of energy into my lifeless body and saw an equally exhausted face staring at me. Although I had spent my entire summer working with Carol Reynolds, a television news reporter, somehow this moment held a different quality. Her eyes lacked the same vividness I was used to seeing under the fluorescent lights of the studio and her hair was crying for a brush. I had always thought that a reporter's hair and makeup were somehow permanent, but Carol looked the same as anyone who had just been awakened from a deep sleep. I certainly never thought that this would set the mood for my entire experience.
After carefully analyzing every Murphy Brown episode, I thought that I had a good handle on the wonderful world of television journalism. The news team would fly first class to their destination, arrive looking as if they had just stepped out of makeup, and then be ushered to their plush hotel, where a variety of perks awaited them. When we arrived in Saugerties, New York, there were no special gifts courtesy of the station, and sharing a two-bedroom, two-bath house with 14 people isn't quite as glamorous as a suite at the Ritz-Carlton, but I was still in heaven.
As I headed out with the crew that morning at 4: 30, my press pass proudly dangling from my neck, I felt a sense of importance. I was with news people ... what could be better?
As the events began to unfold, a deluge of people took over the once vacant lot. The backdrop for our live reports was painting itself, filling up every empty cavity with the colors and vibrance of the concert-goers. Before I knew it, I found myself ten feet from David Crosby and Graham Nash, making small talk with national weatherman, Al Roker, and meeting broadcasters from around the world. This just added to my awe and excitement.
I was awakened the next day not by an irritating beep, but rather the war-like sounds of rain beating on the roof. When we arrived at the site, we found it transformed from grassy hills speckled with tents and multi-colored picnic blankets to a mud pit. As I walked through the crowds, my tennis sneakers sunk deep into the ground, making each step a struggle. As I looked around, I saw people facing the same challenge. Mothers wrapped their young children in blankets to shelter them, while others found temporary refuge in a neighbor's tent.
As the days wore on, the satellite truck (our work space) was in desperate need of a cleaning, as were all of its operators. Somehow we managed. Those smart enough to bring appropriate footwear took turns pulling me up the hills we were forced to scale.
In my days at Woodstock '94, my view had gone from that of wonder to that of reality. As I looked around, I saw a group of human beings, children, reporters, musicians, mothers, teenagers, and those reliving the '69 experience, huddled together to stay dry, helping one another through the mud, making the best of it. As the time passed, being with the press seemed less significant. National news reporter or teenage gate crasher, we were all in the same mud. The rain didn't avoid the press or music tents, or simply stop when there was a story to do. It was indeed a force that brought us all together. I came out of Woodstock with a newfound respect for everyone's humanity. Big or little, rich or poor, famous or not, when it comes down to it, we are all just people. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.