Not job interview, not a radio interview. No, the first time I interviewed someone else. I was thirteen. My family and I journeyed to La Pine, Oregon, to visit my grandparents. I already took up my insatiable habit of writing all the time, so I carried a little notebook with me and worked on my stories, drafting new ideas for novels and reworking the novel I had already completed.
My grandparents took us down the road to a little house and a huge garage. A garage bigger than my horse’s barn twice over. Inside there was a collection of old cars and World War II memorabilia. The owner, a World War II vet named Bob Burnett, sat in a chair in the corner with his feet up. We all ventured over and my grandpa jabs my arm. “Nikki, you ought to ask him about what he did in the war.”
So I did. Mr. Burnett was a B29 pilot who flew into hurricanes to gather scientific data.
He flew into hurricanes.
Frantically, I look around but my notebook is in the car. It was the first—and last time—I was caught without a writing utensil and medium. Mr. Burnett went on to share stories of landing in storms, taking off of a cliff, losing several engines in flight, secret missions for the government and more. He told of the times he took leaves while in Japan and the breadth of experiences there.
I still remember the feeling of awe sitting next to him. I was already a history fan, and he lit a new passion inside of me. This era of new technology, Superfortresses and more, captured my imagination.
The moment we got into the car, I found my notebook and scribbled everything I could remember. I didn’t feel like a journalist per se, but I felt like I had a story to share and I loved that feeling. Years later, in journalism school, I would still get that feeling with each interview and article.
Writing is about sharing a story, whether true or imagined. I plan on sharing Bob Burnett’s story though fiction in the future. He has since passed but I hope that his story will live on.