“…and to think that I was there”

Cranberry High School seniors Joe Gunn (from left) and Jenna Seigworth meet Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., as he enters the conference room at The Derrick. (By Jacob Umstead/Student contributor)+

By JENNA SEIGWORTH – Student contributor

“I just received a phone call. We’re going to the Derrick.” 

That’s how it all started, when Mrs. Trisha Dixon, Cranberry High School journalism teacher, looked at me with a huge smile on her face, telling me we were taking an impromptu field trip the next day. 

I usually don’t ask questions, but that day she seemed overly excited, so I pressed her on more information. I have done tons of articles for The Derrick but never had stepped foot in the building myself. 

She informed me that U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr., was to be interviewed on Tuesday, Oct. 1, and Cranberry Chronicles was invited to attend. 

I wanted more details. What would we be doing? How would the interview be conducted? Who all would be there? Unfortunately, no more information was given. Myself, Joseph Gunn, Jacob Umstead, and Mrs. Dixon were going in blind. 

Jacob, armed with our T7 camera, Joe, with a small notepad and a plentiful knowledge of politics, and myself, carrying my legal pad, waltzed into The Derrick not fully knowing what we were getting ourselves into. 

New editor Luka Krneta and reporter Judy Etzel took us to a small, quaint conference room nestled in the back corner of the building. A camera was already set up to record the interview, and we were given time to acquaint ourselves in the room while waiting for the senator’s arrival. 

Joe quickly made friends with The Derrick’s IT guy, talking about various forms of editing software, coding, and live stream equipment. Jacob and Mrs. Dixon took time to switch lenses on the camera and designate different spots for prime photos. 

Judy and Luka returned to the room, and we engaged in small talk. From the best place for a vegetarian lunch, to journalism as a whole, to Peter Gunn, we covered an array of topics, passing time until the main attraction arrived. 

The senator’s PR rep arrived, and shortly after, the senator himself walked through the door. Shaking his hand, we each shared quick introductions, including where we were planning to attend college, and then we were off to the races. 

The two photographers in the room, Jacob, and Rich Sayer, from The Derrick, seemed to dance around each other, moving silently and eloquently in order to capture the moment in its most raw and natural form. Aside from the periodic click of a camera, the senator’s authoritative voice commanded the room. 

As topics came and went, it was clear that Sen. Casey knew exactly what he wanted to say. He was very well spoken and articulate, and even as someone who hardly follows politics, I could understand his point vividly. The senator clearly meant exactly what he said. 

Of all the hot topics in politics, Sen. Casey was quick in providing his opinion on the impeachment of our current President. That topic, however, was short lived, and soon we found ourselves immersed in the debate of health care.  

When he spoke about the current health care debate, it was evident that he felt greatly convicted to share his thoughts and feelings on the conflict. Whether climate change, immigration, or his support of Joe Biden in the upcoming Presidential election, the senator spoke specifically and eloquently. 

The final topic was introduced near the end of the interview, and even with his PR representative standing, itching to get him to his next stop, Sen. Casey took his time to answer questions surrounding Polk Center. The conversation lasted much longer than the PR rep would’ve liked, but like old friends over coffee at a kitchen table, Judy, Luka, and Sen. Casey went back and forth on the topic.  

The Senator drug his feet as long as he could to avoid leaving. He even took the time to admire an older photo on the wall of the conference room that depicted Oil City, and then proceeded to pose with Jacob, Joe, and I for a photo. 

When the senator finally left and the room fell silent, it truly occurred to me how remarkable of an opportunity I had just received. I was in awe at the fact that students from such a small school such as ours were so privileged as to sit in on such an important interview. I knew this story would be the front page of the next day’s newspaper — and to think that I was there during that article’s making. 

Luka and Judy offered to have us return for future interviews and events and there is no way I would ever turn down such an offer. Not only was I able to learn so much about politics, but watching journalists in action has given me a much deeper appreciation of the field. 

Here is a link to the article by Judith Etzel at TheDerrick.com.


Jenna Seigworth and Jacob Umstead are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.