Superman is for real. Unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Osama bin Laden, Superman is a living, breathing human being — not some fictional character meant to inspire or terrorize us. He walks the earth, helping his fellow man any chance he can get. And for the record, his name is not Clark Kent. It's Sanjay Gupta.
Yes, that Sanjay Gupta. The CNN journalist. The man who was reportedly offered a job as the Obama administration's surgeon general. The neurosurgeon who finds himself becoming a part of the news nearly as often as he reports it, particularly when it comes to the ongoing crisis in Haiti. There, in this earthquake-ravaged nation, Gupta has quite literally saved lives, braving conditions that have forced other doctors to flee. He has balls of steel.
Of course, there are perks to being Superman, the most notable being that the Supes, er Sanjay Gupta, can fly wherever he likes, whenever he likes.
Warren Peper cannot. He is a mortal man. He has to hop on a jet if he wants to fly.
Such was the case on Fri. Jan 15. Peper, the host of The Post & Courier's weekly cable television show In the News with Warren Peper on Comcast C2, and P&C photographer Grace Beahm were invited by the U.S. Air Force to hitch a ride on a C-17 and take a trip to Haiti. The plan was to shoot a video report. But the duo never made it.
Don't worry. They made it back to Charleston.
"We got a call from [the Air Force] the night before saying there was going to be another plane leaving," Peper says. "Long story short, we ended up leaving and then being diverted to Norfolk, Va., to pick up a prioritized cargo, and, basically, ended up getting bumped along with a couple of other media members from Charleston because the plane just kept filling up with more and more stuff. As more pallets went on the C-17, fewer seats became available."
The long-time Charleston newsman adds, "We essentially got bumped late Friday afternoon and had to take a rental van that the Air Force provided for us back on Saturday. We never even came close to getting there, though we tried."
And while the journalist missed out on a chance to report on the Air Force's involvement in the relief effort, there's certainly a silver lining to the last minute cancellation. "We learned later the next day that 100 evacuees came back on the plane," Peper says. "If all five of us had made it, then only 95 evacuees would have been able to come out of there. The way I look at it is, five more people got to see their families than would have otherwise had we not been bumped."
He adds, "It was disappointing on one level, but as the day went on and on, it was very clear that even if we got there at that point it was going to be the dead of night, and we were not really sure at that point what we would be able to document anyway."
In fact, even if Peper and Beahm had made the trip, it would have been a brief one. According to Peper, their time on the ground may have only lasted a few hours. "I've traveled with them [the Air Force] enough in the past, and certain other circumstances in the past when I went with them to Iraq and Kuwait, to understand that you have to go in on these things knowing that the initial game plan might change. You kind of have to deal with that and not get too upset or too excited because stuff so constantly evolves."
As far as the crisis in Haiti is concerned, the wants of a newsman matter very little. "This effort is so monumental on so many different levels that you realize very quickly that you are way down on the pecking order in terms of priority, as you should be," adds P&C multimedia producer Peper. "If you get there and tell the story, that's terrific, but there are a lot more people in need of a lot more things than exposure at this point."