Blaine resident shares storied career as ABC News courier

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When Blaine resident Brian Donovan started working at ABC News, he didn’t know what to expect.

He saw an ad in the Washington Post for a news courier in the D.C. area and Donovan, who formerly worked as a bicycle messenger for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1987 to 1992, thought it was the perfect fit. A motorcycle borrowed from a friend, the highest security clearances available to a civilian and a hard work ethic landed Donovan the job in July 2001.

Within two months of working, Donovan would witness the Pentagon on September 11; the “Amerithrax,” attacts where letters laced with anthrax were mailed and killed five people; and then in 2002, the D.C. sniper attacks, which were shootings for three weeks in October that killed 10 people and critically injured three others.

Of the events, it was 9/11 that stands out the most during Donovan’s 15-year career. The morning started with a neighbor knocking on Donovan’s door around 9 a.m. when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. At the time, he said the news on T.V. didn’t have audio and no one knew what was happening.

“I knew after two and a half months in news that all hell was going to break loose,” Donovan said. “I knew they’d call me in minutes so I just showed up at work.”

As Donovan rushed to work on his motorcycle, he saw a line of traffic of people trying to get home from work. No one but Donovan was going into the city. He then saw a huge cloud of smoke coming from the Pentagon.

“You don’t think about it at the time,” he said. “You just try to do your job and then you think about it after.”

On his way to the Pentagon, Donovan borrowed a Gary Fischer mountain bike from a stranger on the street to get through road closures. He obtained what he says are two of the first videotapes of the Pentagon burning from ABC cameramen and then rode as fast as he could back to the bureau in D.C. to give the tapes to producers.

“It’s a big part of what I am today as a result,” Donovan said of his experience during 9/11.

As a courier, Donovan worked an array of jobs. He would weave in and out of congested D.C. traffic to deliver tapes from cameramen to producers in ABC’s D.C. bureau before fiber optics changed communication in the mid-2000s. He also worked as a driver for ABC staff from everyone up to the former D.C. bureau chief Robin Sproul and drove vehicles while correspondents hastily wrote breaking news on their laptops. Other tasks included helping with electronic repair in the IT department and delivering food to people on stakeouts, often those who were obtaining footage of president elects
before elections.

Donovan describes the job at ABC as having no down time, especially during breaking news. During the Baltimore protests in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray, Donovan said he worked 22 hours per day and was unable to sleep when he had time because his mind was racing on the events unfolding, including having his news van shaken by protestor while he was inside.

After assisting with ABC’s coverage of multiple hurricanes, blizzards, three presidential inaugurations, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to D.C. and many other events, Donovan ended his career with ABC in 2016. After throat surgery and a yearlong recovery, he landed in Blaine to be closer to his sister. He currently works in security at Blaine Harbor for Pacific Security. 

“There are other industries, professions and jobs,” Donovan said. “You get a rush with excitement, that definitely exists with network news. It’s addictive. Real news hounds, once they get a taste of it, they can’t stop.”

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