Wednesday, January 21, 2009

White Powder/White Heat

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - I suppose it's heartening to know that even about a year and a half---well, give or take a couple of months---into my employment as a news assistant at The Wall Street Journal, I can still find some moments of surprise.

Today, I was at the heart of the latest white-powder-in-envelopes scare to hit a major newspaper. Apparently, some nut in Knoxville, Tenn., sent 12 envelopes with white powder to various top editors and executives (including Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson, whose office isn't too far away from where I sit on the ninth floor of One World Financial Center).

Some of them were opened, and so, close to 12 p.m., the alarms at our office went off and we got warned about the white powder, and that at that point we should just go about our normal business and just not open any mail. About 45 minutes later, however, we were told to evacuate the ninth floor.

I was allowed to go home early---guess the amount of required duties I have is small enough that it can be shouldered by others---but other, more important editors and such either decided to go home or go all the way down to the South Brunswick branch to try to get back online and do their thing.

Simply put: it was a crazy scene at that point; I don't think my description of the events as they transpired comes close to encapsulating the whirlwind feeling of the moment.

It was, in a perverse way, kinda exciting. Certainly, it made for some out-of-the-ordinary drama to give my daily routine a nice, hard shake.

As I wrote on my Facebook profile, "[I] can at least now boast to [my] friends that [I] was at the scene of a white-powder-in-envelopes scare."

P.S. Looks like the powder, upon initial investigation, was nothing serious after all. Back to work tomorrow (and, oh yeah, Oscar nominations...).

P.P.S. Perhaps I shouldn't really make light of all this...but I couldn't help but think back on this Chappelle's Show sketch (go 4:10 in to see what I mean):

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