Walter Cronkite Remembers
Among those who converged on tiny New London was a cub reporter, fresh from his university schooling, who was working for United Press (UP) in Dallas. The young man's name was Walter Cronkite.
Cronkite was one of the first reporters to reach the scene, having been dispatched as soon as he received confirmation of an advisory from the Houston bureau that a major story was breaking in New London. He got his first inkling of how bad the incident was when he saw a large number of cars lined up outside the funeral home in Tyler.
When he finally reached the scene, it was dark and raining. Floodlights were being set up, casting long shadows from the big oil field craines that had been brought in to help remove the rubble. Workers were climbing up and down the piles of debris like ants, instinctively going about their grim task.
From the perspective of a news reporter, this was a tradegy of epic proportions. The UPI team that eventually joined Cronkite set up a news bureau in the Western Union office in nearby Overton, and accidently ended up sharing a tiny motel room with a complete stranger. He crept into the room very late believing the sleeping figure in the other bed was a colleague from UP.
Thus began his career, one that would eventually include his Emmy Award-winning role as anchorman for the CBS Evening News. Decades later, as his life in the public eye was winding down, Cronkite said, "I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.