Tag Archives: lakeland

The Tornado at Sun N Fun

12 Apr

March 31, 2011 was an extremely interesting day for me. My plans were to volunteer at the Media Room at the Sun N Fun International Fly-In & Expo. I was prepared for a day composed mostly of welcome media to the Fly-In and issuing credentials repeatedly. That was not the case.

It was a gloomy day as clouds darkened the Lakeland, FL skies and there was a very high chance of precipitation. My thoughts: “Just another rainy Florida day.” After getting lost while trying to locate the Media Registration trailer, I was feeling exhausted. I finally arrived at the trailer and very few media came to the trailer for registration; they were probably sleeping in because of the rain. After an hour or two of sitting and conversing with Danny Kushmer, among others, Danny suggested I run back to the Media Room to take a lunch break. Little did I know, Danny was sending me to shelter.

I arrived at the room which was full of tables and chairs for the media to relax and eat lunch. Twenty minutes may have gone buy until it began to drizzle. The Media Room populated pretty quickly as media took shelter from the rain. Before we knew it, the lights started flickering and it began to pour. It turned from a semi-bright cloudy day to complete darkness. This weather was normal for me, having lived in Florida for over 13 years, but the media in the room were from all over the nation and globe and were definitely not used to this sort of weather.

OK, so you may be wondering how this post has anything to do with public relations. The truth is, I got first-hand exposure to media reacting to the crisis that was occuring at Sun N Fun. Journalists were drafting stories, making phone calls, publishing on social media outlets, etc. I tweeted the entire time (I must say, I contributed to #lkld becoming a trending topic on Twitter that day). After the storm calmed just slightly, reporters ran outside with cameras searching for any damaged aircraft, etc. At one point I was next to a Polk County Sheriff who was being interviewed in person and over the phone. She provided nothing more than the most accurate information. Erroneous reports of a building collapsing got out on websites and social media. Turns out that an exhibitor tent had collapsed and only a few minor injuries occurred.

I volunteer to help causes, meet new people, gain experience, etc. but what I witnessed in the Media Room on March 31, 2011 was a learning experience and much more.