This photo was captured from a NTD TV report I did about Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra's world debut on October 28, 2012, at Carnegie Hall in New York. I am now using it as the profile photo for several of my blogs, as well as my Facebook page and account. Today I’d like to share some very unusual and breathtaking experiences behind it.
On October 28, 2012, two historically significant events happened; at the same time, I also experienced the most strange, most hair-raising incident in my more than a decade long career as a journalist.
The first historically significant event was of course the world debut of Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra. One of the audience members, seasoned music critic William Liu thus described his thoughts after the concert, “It’s a great moment, a breakthrough in the history of the world’s music. An unparalleled brilliance since the renaissance!”
Sure enough, since then, with Shen Yun touring the world every year, more and more people have been marveling at it, and exclaimed that it must a miracle created by god. I also believe that Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra will surely be written into the music history of human kind.
What I’d like to share here is that how honored and lucky I have been to be the TV reporter who broke the first ever TV news about Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s world debut; and who continued to produce five more reports on the following days.
Another historically significant event on that day was Hurricane Sandy, which was said to be the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.
Estimates as of 2015 assessed damage to have been about $75 billion (2012 USD), a total surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina. At least 233 people were killed along the path of the storm in eight countries.
When the hurricane reached New York, it felt like the “doomsday”, with all public transportation stopped, large parts of the city cut off from power supply, and stock exchange shut down, etc.
Were there any connections between the above mentioned two events? Perhaps there were; or perhaps there were not. However, in terms of the timing, they overlapped each other.
I still clearly remember that on October 28, 2012, Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s performance started at 2:00 pm and finished around 4:00 pm. Hurricane Sandy was approaching the US East Coast almost exactly at that time; and public transportation was scheduled to close down in the same night. As a matter of fact, two or three hours after the performance finished, public transportation would have gradually stopped. Thousands of fights had already been cancelled.
Because of the hurricane, the presenter of Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra had worried that whether the performance would be affected; and whether people would be coming. But it was hard to change the date as everything had been arranged long ago. It turned out that the impact had been very minor; Carnegie Hall was packed; and the concert was a great success. The astounding performance of nearly 100 musicians received a very long and warm standing ovation from the very enthusiastic audience.
I interviewed some of the audience members after the concert. According to our plan, I gave the SIM card with the recordings of the interviews on it to a colleague for him to take back to the office to produce a piece of TV news for the 7:00 pm evening news; whilst I left behind to do two stand-ups respectively for the news about Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra and Hurricane Sandy.
It was about 5:00 pm then; and almost everyone had vanished from outside the Carnegie Hall. Although Hurricane Sandy had not arrived yet, people already started to feel its power from the violently shaking tree branches, the very big drops of scattered rain, the strange-colored road lamps, and the very few people hurriedly walking by with their necks shrunk into their collars.
Apart from those, I had a bigger burden on my mind, which was my deadline: I had to go back to the station with my stand-ups before 6:30 pm to catch up the 7:00 pm deadline for broadcast, so that I could finish the voice over and put my stand-ups together with the interviews edited by my colleague.
As I had gotten ready for the stand-up; and was about to speak in front of the camera, my cameraman suddenly pointed to my back, indicating that I needed to look back. I turned around, and saw a man in shabby clothes. He looked like a homeless person; and was holding a red flag of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) right behind my back. If I had done my stand-up then, my background would have been the CCP flag with the hammer and the sickle.
I remembered having seen this person before. When Shen Yun's dance troupe was performing at Lincoln Center early in the year, this man had also been there to make trouble. He waved his CCP flag, shouted out very loudly outside the theater, and had to be driven away by the security guards later on.
I hadn’t expected that he would appear this time too. Obviously he was well prepared and directed by some force. Otherwise where did he get his CCP flag as a westerner?
As a matter of fact, since Shen Yun’s mission was to revive tradition Chinese culture, which had been damaged by the CCP, and since Shen Yun had been bold enough to depict CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong in China on the world stage, the CCP had been trying very hard to suppress it, even overseas. I guess that was the reason why that man tried to cause as much trouble as possible for anything related to Shen Yun.
What could I do? With him standing right behind me with his flag, I couldn’t shoot my stand-up. Wait for him to leave? I didn’t have the time. Call the police? Even if the police did come, I had to spend much time to explain what happened. But I just couldn’t afford any waste of time whatsoever!
I hurriedly did some math in my mind; and decided to give up doing the stand-up. I thought I should just go to another location to do the stand-up for the news about the hurricane first; and to get rid of this mad man in the process.
So I asked my cameraman to pack up. Holding my mic with the NTD logo on it in my hand, I ran all the way to Central Park, which is not far from Carnegie Hall. I planned to come back afterwards.
After we ran to a gate of Central Park, and were about to shoot my stand-up, that man also arrived with his flag unfurled behind me, just on time.
Seeing this, my cameraman suddenly put his camera and tripod on his shoulder and said, “Let’s go to South Ferry Station. There must be big waves there. If we shoot from there, the result will be better.” And he had already started running to the subway station.
I desperately shouted at his back, against the strong wind, “No! We can’t go! No time!” Suddenly I felt chocked by the wind; and lost my voice.
I knew too well that the subway to South Ferry Station would stop running by 6:00 pm. If we went there, it was impossible for us to come back. And it could also be dangerous at the port with the hurricane approaching.
However, what could we do with that man following us to do his damage? I anxiously tried to figure out something. Then suddenly some plots in some movie flashed through my mind; and I whispered to my cameraman,”Get down to the subway station!”
I felt that I had suddenly changed into a solider in the movie. I thought: If we jump on to any train, and jump off at the next station, it was possible for us to lose this man with the help of the complicated “geography” of the subway station, with its multiple exits.
We therefore indeed got down to the subway station at Central Park. We held our breath and waited for about one minute. The man didn’t follow us down!