After watching CNN’s breaking news coverage around midnight, a West Virginia woman (Annette Roby — unsure about the spelling) walked to the Sago Baptist Church with her young son and daughter (Travis and Kiki) to rejoice about the rescue of 12 miners. She stopped by Anderson Cooper‘s live shot for an interview. She said her family was heading to the church to celebrate.
At about 2:45am, she walked back to Cooper and interrupted his broadcast. There was fear and anger in her eyes. She said the families were distraught. Her son said they ran away as fistfights broke out. “Only one made it out alive,” she said. “There’s eleven that apparently did not make it.”
Cooper initially seemed skeptical of her comments, and nervous about repeating them on-air. “Where have you gotten this information?,” he asked. But as he heard screaming from the church, and he saw other family members crying down the road, he realized it was true.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “…I’m completely stunned.”
“It’s disgraceful. It’s awful. But it needs to be known,” the woman said. “The story needs to change. It’s taken a turn…”
And her young son interrupted to summarize the entire evening in one sentence: “It went from happy to sad.”
On MSNBC, NBC correspondent Ron Allen‘s voice was shaky and emotional.
“I just want to make sure that we’ve got this right…
They’re coming out [of the church]. They are distraught. One relative is saying there are not a lot of survivors. I need to make sure I can confirm all this. One woman came by and we tried to approach her and she was just distraught…
We just really want to make sure exactly what the facts are. The news here has suddenly taken what seems to be an incredible turn for the worst.”
Allen pointed that “we had never gotten official confirmation” of survivors “here at the scene from the governor or the mine company.”
He said the word of apparent survivors “spread like wildfire” among family members around 11:50pm ET.
“For the last three hours or so, our source for believing that 12 miners had been found alive was in fact the families,” Allen added.
Cooper was pissed. “The question is, how in God’s name did this information get given to family members who have been waiting for two days now for word on their loved ones?”
He asked the same question to Randi Kaye around 3:35am, but no one had an answer. As the hours passed outside the church, “something wasn’t right,” Kaye said. “We saw the one ambulance come down…and then there was a lot of waiting.
There were a lot of gloomy faces among some of the EMS crews. We saw one fireman come down, he was starting to disrobe, I tried to speak with him, and he would not say a word and his face was very grim.
There was just a very unsettling feeling over there that maybe it wasn’t as good as we initially thought. I tried to talk to the state police, and they wouldn’t talk. It was someone of an alarming situation after all that joy.”
Cooper pointed out that “much of the United States has gone to bed tonight thinking the best, and they’re going to wake up tomorrow–” and Kaye completed his sentence: “seeing the worst.”