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Media either brave or stupid
Reporter's notebook
Lewis Levinemay2017
Lewis Levine, a longtime correspondent for the Courier, is retired Army. He primarily covers public safety. - photo by File photo

Reporters, it’s often been said, are either very brave or very stupid, I guess it depends on who you ask.

I bring this up because over the past year I’ve covered hurricanes Matthew and Irma, and each time I had to take a moment and question myself as to why I was in the middle of these storms while others had either evacuated or were safely snug in their homes, and only one response came too mind: I had a responsibility to let you know how treacherous it was.

We as reporters really don’t think of the dangers we face while covering a breaking news story. We have a tendency to run toward gunfire or venture into a woods fire to get up close and personal, so close you feel the blistering heat take its toll on your skin.

Several years ago I received a call from a source of a standoff in which a man brandishing two handguns was holding police at bay while standing on the roof of his home. I rolled up to the scene loaded only with my camera to shoot video. I was able too set up in a prime location with a clear view of the man as he paced back and forth yelling and waving the guns.

What I didn’t realize was he had a clear view of me, and when he spotted me shooting him with my camera he decided he was going to take aim at me with his guns.

It didn’t take long for either the brave or stupid side of my mind to click and duck.

For my sake I’m glad he decided not to fire at me. Long story short, he was eventually brought down by a deputy from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.

Another brave or stupid thing I did while covering a major breaking news story was during the wildfires in Waycross.

I was able to embed with a fire unit battling the fire which had already destroyed thousands of acres of timber in the area.

I had no protective gear with me, and as I followed the firefighters while snapping photos for the Associated Press, I was engulfed by thick smoke as the water hit the brushes in an attempt too control the flames. I was blinded as the smoke got into my eyes, but worse, my lungs quickly filled with smoke and I couldn’t breath, thinking to myself I guess this is it, it’s all over now. By some miracle I had the presence of mind to hold my breath and cover my mouth with my shirt till the smoke cleared.

Brave or stupid, I don’t know, I still go into woods fires, though next time I’ll carry protective gear.

Now let me get back to covering hurricanes, I rode the streets the night Matthews hit without incident, I did have to dodge a few tree limbs and other odds and ends.

When my daughter Jacqueline, who lives in Atlanta, found out what I was doing she sent me a text message which simply said, "Are you out of your XXXXXXX mind!"

I think I responded with, "just a little."

Irma, while not as powerful as Matthew, gave me a run for my money. I was on Isle of Wight shooting video on my iPhone of the raging water from a bridge when a strong gust of wind pushed me forward nearly flipping me over the guard raid into the water. I was able too jump off the curb in time before I made what would have been the finale plunge. That wasn’t the worst of it, Isle of Wight was determined too take me down at least in my mind it was. The second incident not far from the bridge was when a tree toppled over hitting a power line sending lightning bolt flashes through the area just as I was passing by. I had no idea my 2000 Toyota Tacoma pick up could reach such high speeds as I floored the gas.

Once again I have no idea if I’m brave or just stupid, maybe reckless is the correct word too use, I do know this as long as I’m able too continue too do this type of work brave, stupid or perhaps reckless you can count on me and the other countless brave, stupid or even reckless reporters to be out there.

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