Lost In Comfort
(Link to article)
This tragedy was/is incredibly personal for me.
I (as Alan Scott at the time) was part of an award-winning pioneering radio team called, KOJO94-Dallas/Ft Worth, TX, (2 years later we changed call letters to KLTY as it remains today). It was a 100k watt adventure with cutting edge contemporary Christian music charts competing with the top 40 formats and sounds of the day. I should add here that it was 1987 where many cuts wouldn’t be heard in a church service at the time simply because of conservative traditional church service music tastes and appreciation. (It wasn’t a good or bad atmosphere, just the facts.) We had our first sign-on date on July 4th that year with full-blown marketing plans for demographics way beyond the “churched” audience. If you were here in Texas listening to our format, you either loved us, confused about us or you hated us….all in Christian love of course. For the on-air staff, it was all about a tight segue, tight board operating, hitting our marks, testing our target audience, monitoring our competition down the dial, doing social proof for our very local core audience and listening to our consultants. We were “doing” radio at its best with some of the finest on-air vets available racing to increase our ratings as quickly as we possibly could. Then…GOD stepped in without a heads-up.
The great Bob Morrison and Dave Tucker headed up our news dept. At first word of this tragic nightmare, we dropped everything and went into ministry mode. Suddenly we were breaking format, slipping on hard unit breaks and keeping the mic open way longer than our objectives. We began adding songs out of format for healing lyrics and spiritual easement. Because a couple of very local churches were involved in the devastating event, we fielded on-air phone calls from family and friends of the victims recovered, along with the missing, giving heart-wrenching stories of the loved ones lost to the Guadeloupe River in south Texas.
Frankly, for the person of faith or the agnostic, there was very little relief among the reports given. It was overwhelming. Never-ever expecting it, I found myself being a late night on-air counselor to many who would call sharing their grief and needing songs of soul and rest. Local teens, I would not have ever met, were becoming known to me, their personas, their talents and love of life. It’s one thing to read of someone’s life and another to have the parent cry out of their soul just who that child was. I must admit, I had to hold back lots of tears opening the mic for a stop-down break while still doing the business of the station. As an actor I had many scenes where directed tears fell becoming almost on-demand for me, but 30 years ago this week, the opposite was the struggle.
Many of those kids today would now be in their mid 40’s. No doubt there were potential business leaders, nurses, doctors, musicians, teachers, parents, pastors and politicians. I still think about the lives lost, but mainly I think of the families left behind who are hurting once again this week with the 30th anniversary upon us. Above all, I am grateful I learned early why I chose that profession. In a single hour, we all learned it wasn’t about hitting the weather forecasts right at :14 and :44, or spilling out the calls and frequency with the handle followed by the next PSA tagged with the pre-selling of the next Amy Grant hit within the quarter hour, all wrapped in a total of :13 seconds of blather. I never forgot that lesson. As a communicator it served me well for touchstone moments to come. In fact, I understood and held to the difference all through my radio career all because God stepped in and walked through the rapids of the time.
I am 30 years older now and I find that for me, Comfort, TX remains to be more fuel for the race.