We All Gonna’ Die And Most Departures Won’t Make the Evening News But RIP Michael Jackson

Mom called me around 9 a.m. September 11, 2001, to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

“Turn on the television,” she said.

I imagined a Piper Club. Yawn. I turned on the TV and saw smoke coming from the WTC tower and the talking heads were babbling TV-eese, that was, they didn’t know much so they talked about the images: QMfE, “Wow, look at that.”

I live in Jersey City, New Jersey (sometimes I say Jersey City, New York, they’re so close) and I eventually made my way outside of 56 Glenwood Avenue, where I was living then, and looked east and saw a plume.

That’s no Piper Club, I thought, and went back upstairs to my apartment, and watched a few minutes until I felt I had to head to Exchange Place. My bike had a flat. I walked, 20-30 minutes – PATH wasn’t running, when, there, I was about to give some lip to this Port Authority cop, who was ordering hordes of people that they had to move way back from the area bordering the river, until I saw his face. He was near tears, I heard his anguish but, at the same time, he was calm, he was professional and he kept insisting that people leave. But any minute I was expecting him to weep.

QMfE, “They’ll be bringing the bodies ashore near …” his radio cracked, and that’s when I really learned that 9/11 was 9/11. And, yep, like myriad others, I saw the first tower fall. And later the second.

I learned about JFK in my high school history class. The teacher, a Carmelite priest with a thick Boston brogue, was freaking out but I didn’t recognize it at the time, his sobriety so stolid. Someone had walked into class to inform him and for the remainder of the semester, all talk was and had to be about John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I aced the class (like many, many others).

So, I saw a TV clip about MJ being rushed to the hospital but heard about two hours later by cell from my buddy, Christine Normoyle, [her Linkedin hasn’t been updated] that MJ was dead. When Princess Di died, I recall, clearly, a barrage of jokes, which I believed were being rapidly circulated by people trying to ward off the tsunami of news media reportage threatening to overwhelm them with reminders about their mortality. I cracked what I thought was a good one in my journalism classes. It didn’t go over well with some yet went over well with others.

When I was a reporter for the Democratic & Chronicle in Rochester, New York, the guys (it was all guys then) working in the Monroe County Medical Examiners Office were always cracking jokes about the dead whenever I (and other reporters) called up for our death checks, every few hours for the serious reporters. A D&C reporter a few years before me had won a Pulitzer because he checked with the office before writing his story about the Attica uprising. The NY State Police had reported to the news media that  the 39 deaths inside that state prison occurred at the hands of the prisoners, but the Monroe County Medical Examiner reported, QMfE, “I found State Police bullets in the backs of …”

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A guy named Donofrio was the best in the MC Examiner’s Office, yet faltered one day when a body that had to be recovered was one of their own.

QMfE, “I couldn’t believe it,”  Donofrio stammered.

But he was right on the next day.

QMfE, “You wouldn’t want to date her now,” he said, describing the condition of the latest body they had brought in. “So, when are you coming to visit us? We’ll be nice to you.” A Donofrio Double Entendre. The next step for moving to a higher tier of trust with the cops and sheriffs deputies and the ME staff was to observe an autopsy.

QMfE, “Don’t go if they’re doing a kid,” advised a sheriff’s detective who had been coaching me for that next big step. As part of his mentoring, he had shown me a picture of a shotgun victim’s eyeball dangling from a ceiling. There were scraps of brain and face tissue in other areas of the room. The slaying had happened months earlier so he was comfortable also describing how the sheriff’s SWAT team had screwed up at the scene and that the squad leader had resigned. All of the screwing up taking place inside the home, out of sight of the reporters – me and many others – outside, grabbing whatever news crumbs we could get from PIOs/flacks/sources.

Of course, a cornucopia of information was on the horizon once I autopsied. Because once that happened, I wouldn’t need PIOs/flacks. So, I did what I had to do. QMfE, “Bring it on,” I told them.

So: Does anyone know any good MJ jokes?

Date: Thu 25 Jun 18:38:55 EDT 2009
From: “Kim Smith” <ksmithpr@earthlink.net>
Subject: News Alert: Michael Jackson Is Dead, A.P. Reports
To: “Kim Smith”

FYI - 

Public Relations
718 858 2557

-----Original Message-----
From: NYTimes.com News Alert [mailto:nytdirect@nytimes.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 6:33 PM
To: ksmithpr@EARTHLINK.NET
Subject: News Alert: Michael Jackson Is Dead, A.P. Reports

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thursday, June 25, 2009 -- 6:32 PM ET

Michael Jackson Is Dead, A.P. Reports

Michael Jackson, the pop star, has died, The Associated Press reported,
citing a person with knowledge of the situation.
Earlier, Mr. Jackson, unconscious, had been rushed to a Los Angeles

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