Sara Sidner makes sure to never cry at work, not while covering the Libyan civil war, Mumbai terrorist attacks or riots in Ferguson, Mo.
Last Sunday, she broke her rule.
It happened when Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo unexpectedly dropped by the site where George Floyd perished and agreed to chat with the CNN correspondent. At one point, Sidner relayed a question from the victim’s brother, who was listening in from the family home.
When the cameras switched off, Sidner handed her microphone to a crew member, told everyone to leave her alone and sat down on a nearby stoop. Then, she lost it.
“I just started bawling,” she said the next day, speaking from her car at the same location, minutes before going back on the air. “I’ve never done that before in the presence of other people. I’m a woman, and I want to show I can handle it, that I can shoulder anything. But that was hard. I couldn’t be reporter Sara. I was just human Sara. There was something about the compassion that the chief showed and the reaction from the Floyd family. I couldn’t suppress my emotions anymore.”
It didn’t help that the veteran reporter was operating on just a couple hours of sleep, standard operation since she flew into the Twin Cities on May 27. But maybe it was also the idea that a city best known for Mary Richards’ sunny-side-up spirit and Prince’s feel-good music had turned into a war zone.
“No one is ever going to think of Minneapolis the same way again,” she said.
CBS correspondent Jeff Pegues has also had difficulty recognizing the city he lived in during the mid-1990s while working on a short-lived UPN show.
He can’t shake the images: a white woman casually looting a Target store with her two kids in tow; a crew member getting shot with a rubber bullet; the protester who insisted that this was all an uprising; drunks chasing his team around, threatening bodily harm.
“There has been danger. There have been moments when you have to be worried more about safety than covering the story,” said Pegues, who wrote the book “Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between the Police and Black America.” “I’ve had situations like that in the past, but never as many in one week.”
But the veteran reporter has also seen examples of the Minnesota Nice he remembers, such as watching residents clean up debris with a sea of brooms or the stranger who approached him last Sunday just as he was about to go on “Face the Nation.”
“He just walked up and said, ‘I’m not black. I’m not white. I’m human,’ ” Pegues said. “We elbow bumped. I think he just felt the need to latch on to the positive.”
Sidner has also found kindness.
“In Ferguson, there was initially a lot of screaming at me, but here the protesters have embraced us,” she said. “There was a conspiracy theorist following me around the other day, calling me all kinds of names. Protesters stepped in and said, ‘We know who she is and we know the story she is telling. Get away from her right now.’ That’s never happened before.”
Four nights after landing in Minneapolis, Pegues took a break between appearing on the evening news and reporting from the streets to drive around the Lake of the Isles and Loring Park, where he had bought his first townhouse. It was a rare break from the action.
“It reminded me of the Minneapolis I remember,” Pegues said. “People outdoors enjoying the good weather, riding bikes around the lakes. It was nice.”