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Fast response, resourceful work breaks news on Nashville’s Christmas Day bombing

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When reports that a bomb had exploded in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, surfaced early on Christmas morning, AP Nashville reporter Kimberlee Kruesi and photographer Mark Humphrey upended their holiday plans and sprang into action.

They were soon joined by Washington Justice Department reporters Mike Balsamo and Eric Tucker, both of whom cut vacations short and jumped in to help piece together what had happened.

The bombing knocked out Wi-Fi service for the local staffers, making even routine phone calls impossible at times. Desk editors in Kentucky and Atlanta coordinated remotely, while the staffers in Tennessee found workarounds to communicate. (The explosion was a reminder that AP staffers are well-served to diversify connectivity options whenever possible.)

Although access to the bombing site was severely limited soon after the blast, Humphrey found a position by entering a parking garage from the opposite side. He was rewarded with exclusive photos of the damaged downtown buildings in the days after the bombing.

Working through the weekend with desk editors Dylan Lovan, Becky Yonker, Pam Sampson, Mary Sedor, Bill Cormier, Anisha Frizzell and others, as well as the news research team, the AP beat other media to the news that human tissue had been found at the explosion site — ahead of CNN by a full hour, thanks to Balsamo and Tucker.

Kruesi also captured the compelling human drama of police officers who nearly lost their lives in the explosion,and the AP was among the first to report that investigators had descended on the bomber’s Nashville home. Humphrey was everywhere,filing photos of authorities searching the home, while Lavoie was the first to report a neighbor’s recollection of the man’s chilling but initially baffling prediction that Nashville and the world would remember him forever after Christmas.

Annapolis,Maryland-based Mike Kunzelman,meanwhile, gathered background on the bomber and helped stitch together main stories for several news cycles.

To say their work attracted attention would be an understatement.

The AP’s first-day story alone was picked up by news outlets a phenomenal 1,255 times,with 324,000 social media shares and 816,000 pageviews,establishing a pattern that continued into the next week.

For mobilizing quickly and resourcefully on Christmas morning and into the following days,Kruesi,Humphrey,Tucker,Lavoie, Balsamo and Kunzelman share AP’s Best of the Week honors for the last full week of 2020.

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