For nearly 20 years, he's been telling them through the lenses of his still and video cameras - as well as pen and paper.
Dan contributes regular columns to the Tribune's Orlando Sentinel. He also authors social awareness articles for Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida as well as Harbor House, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. He's photographed everything from the Egyptian pyramids and the Normandy Beaches, to the plains of Montana and the islands of Hawaii. His 'in their own words,' style of video storytelling leverages the unique power of a first-person narrative.
As a former staff editor, cameraman and producer for NBC News in their Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Bureaus, Dan helped cover the continuation of the Middle East peace process for the Today Show, CNBC, Nightly News, MSNBC and Dateline.
His travels have taken him throughout the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Along the way, he learned to speak Arabic, Hebrew and Italian, while covering some of the biggest news stories in our lifetime including; 9-11 from Ground Zero, Hurricane Katrina, and the war in Iraq. He's traveled aboard Air Force One with Tom Brokaw, covered the Olympics in Torino, Italy for the Today Show, and covered Barack Obama's presidential campaign with Brian Williams.
Dan has also delivered a wide array of marketing and entertainment-related products. He traveled to Helsinki, Finland to join the launch team of the world's largest cruise ship – Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas – where he captured daily "webisode" stories chronicling the 7,000 mile journey across the Atlantic. He was in Dubai for the grand opening of the Atlantis Resort on the Palm Jumeirah Island in the United Arab of Emirates, worked on episodic television for A&E TV, shot behind-the-scenes on the set of feature films with stars such as John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, and filmed national commercials with Tiger Woods.
An accomplished Director of Photography, Dan has also shot commercials, international documentaries, SMT's, VNR's, training and teaching videos, corporate videos and concerts. The A-List of musicians Dan has worked with covers some of the biggest names in the industry: Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Barbara Streisand, Janet Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, The Spinners, and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. Dan also traveled on the road with Aerosmith for their "Honkin' on Bobo" tour in 2004.
To accompany a domestic violence article I wrote for the Orlando Sentinel (11 March 2012), I shot and edited this video for the Sentinel's web site. Captured with the Canon 5D, the piece (an "In-Their-Own-Words" story) features Carol Wick, Director of Harbor House, a Central Florida based shelter for victims of domestic violence, and her description of the R3 app – a social media tool created to help "Recognize, Respond and Refer."
In the mid 90's, as a staff cameraman and editor for NBC News in their Tel Aviv and Jerusalem bureaus, I was told a U.S. History professor (on sabbatical) was living in the Judean Desert with a tribe of Bedouin. The professor described a typical "Day in the Life" of the tribesmen, their history, their uniqueness, and how modern technology is erasing their very existence.
For nearly three years, I helped document the creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for Universal Orlando Resort's Public Relations Department. From offices on the back-lot of Universal Studios, my team and I helped create Electronic Press Kits, Video News Releases, and web-based content - including interviews with J.K. Rowling, and others responsible for bringing Harry Potter to life. When the day finally arrived for the stars of the movies to experience the attraction for the first time, I was there to capture their reactions.
Weddings are meant to be personal - designed to reflect the style of the individuals. Capturing the unique nature of each of the three Loews Resort destinations, this video showcases Hard Rock Hotel. We met award winning chefs, world re-known wedding coordinators, and all those who work behind-the-scenes to combine the brand's sexiness and sophistication, with Ben and Daphnie's passion and charm. The end result encapsulates the unique flavor of their "big day" in Orlando.
2:34 p.m. May 5, 1961. Alan Shepherd makes history. Blasting off atop his Mercury Redstone rocket, he's the first American to make a suborbital flight.
On the ground, watching as NASA answered the Soviets' call to join in the space race, were thousands of journalists. One of them, a 27-year-old cub reporter for NBC News, Jay Barbree. Unbeknownst to Jay, and the rest of the world, it was the start of another historic event. One less visible, but still remarkable.
There are records of all kinds in the history books of American culture. In sports, there's Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, and Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors in golf. Records are meant to be broken. But Jay holds one that can't be touched. Ever. It's a physical impossibility.
After Shepherd's flight, Jay watched the launches of Grissom, Glenn and the rest of the Mercury astronauts. He was there for the Gemini flights. All of them. Then came Apollo. He covered every one of those, too. He reported on the launch of the first space shuttle, carrying John Young and Bob Crippen into space. And he saw the last orbiter clear the tower this past July. In all, Jay watched 135 shuttles take to the sky — 166 manned launches total. When all was said and done, Jay could rightfully say he was the only journalist to have covered every manned space mission.
This year, with the shuttle fleet retired, and after little more than half a century in front of the camera, Jay thought of turning the studio lights off for good. Retiring from NBC News. Then he came to his senses, deciding to "stick around," he says, for future launches.
Fifty years has allowed for plenty of memories — the books he wrote, the friends he made, and the dinner we once shared with Neil Armstrong. There are moments he won't forget: his many "scoops" like Project Score, and the fact he was one of 40 finalists selected as the first journalist in space. Then, there are the moments he can't forget: Columbia, Challenger, and the Apollo 1 fire that claimed the lives of three astronauts, one of them his good friend Gus Grissom.
I had the privilege of being Jay's cameraman, working with him and his producer, Dan Shepherd, for nearly 10 years.
"How're my Dans today?" Jay would say, bounding into the bureau with a thunderous, southern Georgia drawl. With a spring in his step like a 20-year old, he'd take command of our makeshift Launch Control Center. "How long is this assignment?" I'd ask Dan. "Long," he'd always say, slowly. The three of us would laugh, then get straight to work.
The brownies Jay's wife, Jo, made before each launch allowed Dan and me to secretly hope for a glitch in the countdown, causing a scrub, so more brownies could be made the following day.
Jay asked me to help research his last book. He gave me credit in the front, and put my picture in the back — correctly putting two N's in my name. Not even my mom does that.
I wasn't with Jay when the last shuttle took off, having left NBC a few years before. I tried catching a glimpse from the parking lot of my Orlando office, but the cloud cover made it impossible. I ran inside to watch Jay on TV, as he covered the mission from the desk I once helped light. I won't be with him for the next launch, either. Whenever that is. But if he's on television, we'll all be better informed because of it.
I think about my friend a lot these days. And I wonder. Will he really sit at his desk in that NBC bureau for the next one? Or will he change his mind, sleep in, and not even bother to watch that familiar plume rise into the sky he's stared up at for so long? No, he'll want to cover it live. Because that's what makes him come alive. He'll feel that news bureau shake again. The rumbling of the floors during liftoff, and the rattling of the plexiglass windows, as the rocket's engines soar toward the heavens. Once more, carrying astronauts into space.
I never got to see DiMaggio swing a bat, but I did get to see Jay Barbree. And now that he's "sticking around," more can enjoy watching a rare journalist documenting a fleeting human era, for our benefit and for the record.
The world of sports has become a wild, wild world — athletes' temper tantrums on public display, while their antics are shielded behind big money. It's shameful. It's an epidemic. And there's plenty of blame to go around.
Two years ago, at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams received a code violation for breaking her tennis racket. Later, she threatened to turn the line judge into a human Pez dispenser. "I swear to God I'm [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat…"
She lost that match and was fined, but she kept playing.
This year, with less-hostile threats, she did it again. Trounced by Sam Stosur, Williams bellowed at another official: "I promise you, if you ever see me walking down the hallway, look the other way, 'cause you're out of control … You're just unattractive inside."
Williams was the unattractive one. Uglier still, was the punishment she received from the United States Tennis Association. A $2,000 fine. The price she pays for dinner in Manhattan with a few friends.
Williams collected $1.4 million at the Open this year. And while still on probation, she could have received an outright suspension. "Don't look my way," she said, barking at the chair umpire. And the U.S.T.A. didn't. Why? Money. To remove her from competition would jeopardize the 121 percent TV-ratings spike from the previous year's Open.
And it's not just tennis.
In June, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and driver Kyle Busch got into a fight after a race in Kansas. Busch was already on probation from a previous altercation with driver Kevin Harvick. Childress was fined $150,000. Busch continued racing.
In the NFL, Green Bay's Charles Woodson punched David Thomas of the Saint's during their season opener. Woodson was fined $10,000. He makes just less than $10 million a year.
Monetary fines alone aren't deterrents for curbing bad behavior. They're not even slaps on the wrist. They're a wagging of the finger. And players wag back with a certain finger of their own. Only suspensions without pay seem to have an impact. Remember Manny Ramirez? He quit baseball rather than accept suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Even colleges are susceptible. Writer Taylor Branch, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on civil rights, wrote an article critical of college sports in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly. According to Branch, the NCAA spends less than 1 percent of its revenue enforcing its rule book. And the big schools, he writes, are never severely punished.
College athletes walk between raindrops because they're allowed. They throw spitballs at the blackboard all day, because there isn't a teacher in the room to tell them to stop. And if you think March Madness money plays no role, you're an ostrich.
The bad behavior is also in our neighborhoods. According to the National Association of Sports Officials — an 18,000-member organization that tracks incidents — hundreds of complaints pour in each year from youth organizations around the country. And it's not just the kids displaying conduct unbecoming.
In Pennsylvania, a high-school referee was body-slammed by a parent after being warned for yelling obscenities at a basketball game. In Illinois, an umpire was head-butted by a parent during a girl's softball game.
Kids — and parents — need better role models for behavior.
Recently, I spent a week in Switzerland with tennis pro Roger Federer for CBS Sports. One of the things I admire most about Federer is how he handles himself on the court, which is in contrast to some of his predecessors. "Watching [John] McEnroe erupt was entertaining," Federer said, "because he had the game to back it up." What Federer missed was that it's not about having the game; it's about learning how to handle oneself while playing it.
But if it's a money game, then the fans should know how to play. When pro athletes act like children, let's put them in timeout with no allowance. Hit their pocketbooks instead of giving them money from ours. Don't buy a jersey. Don't go to a game.
Maybe then the pros will get it. Maybe then, college athletes will take notice. And maybe, finally, someone can be an example so kids can start throwing baseballs, instead of watching their parents throw punches.
This month, my daughter will be able to buy herself a drink in a bar while using her real license.
As a teenager, every April 16, Lauren would reminisce with me over a cup of coffee. We'd talk about our past trips, and dream of places yet to see. Flipping through our photo albums, Lauren would laugh at her consistently inconsistent hairstyles, while I laughed off my consistently receding hairline.
By the time I was 21, my adventures could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. Lauren was on her third passport by age 10.
I dragged her everywhere: the top of the Eiffel Tower for breathtaking views and claustrophobic tunnels through the pyramids. We cruised along the Nile and kissed the Blarney Stone. As a teenager, she walked the beaches of Normandy, and as a little girl, placed a crayon-written prayer in the cracks of the Wailing Wall.
I tried pointing out the importance of what she was experiencing at such a young age. But it would have been easier to teach my cat calculus. One day … I kept saying to myself. One day, she'll get it.
That "one day" happened recently.
Lauren lit up my phone with a text message rivaling the length of a Stephen King novel. "1 of my art profs has us studying museums — NYC's Gugg & Paris' Louvre & d'Orsay." I was happy she was sharing with me. Happier still, texting was not yet a major at her university.
Like a Kerouac scroll, she continued without punctuation. "You showed me that art in those buildings in those cities!"
It wasn't the project that had her so intoxicatingly excited. It was her realization of what scientists throughout the centuries have called the "ah-ha!" moment.
Somewhere, in the middle of her iPhone novella, Lauren was saying, "I got it!" She got that traveling had enriched her in ways not previously realized. She now saw, for the first time, being there meant something. That presence really does make a difference.
Traveling, for me, has always been an evolving art form — creating new ways to find the comfort in the uncomfortable, or the extraordinary in the ordinary. While I was perfecting the craft, I rarely recognized the dividends. I knew I was being changed, but couldn't see the relevance. I felt myself being formed, but the shape wasn't recognizable.
John Lennon was right: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." When Lauren left for school, the plans were no longer ours. The world of individuality had opened its doors for her, and she ran through them without knocking. We didn't drift apart; we sailed past one another on hurricane-force winds. Her urge to take off, trumping my need to control and hang on.
We didn't need phones — or even proximity — to argue. Our angry voices echoed across cities. Texts were sent in ALL CAPS. Phone calls went unanswered and, eventually, dialing stopped altogether.
We drank coffee separately last April 16. I sent a text while looking over our photo albums. She responded in a nice, but sterile way.
The two of us haven't traveled together in awhile. School and work keeps Lauren from going too far from home. At least that's what we tell each other. In truth, Lauren prefers me in tiny doses, enduring my company with an air of guarded tension.
And while we're no longer sailing past each other, our boats are moored in different ports. We've shared many adventures together. But no journey has been this long or difficult.
Wrapping up her text, Lauren ended with a compliment I didn't expect, "I'm an art major because of a world you opened up for me."
And there it was — my "ah-ha!" moment. A dividend I could finally see. Traveling had done more than enrich us individually. It had been bridging us together all along. Crossing continents had connected me to other people and to myself, but now I saw it connecting me to my daughter. And she saw it, too.
This April 16, we'll share coffee over breakfast and a beer over dinner. She'll thank me for her gift, and I'll thank her for her company. Before she leaves, we'll hug and say, "I love you" like we always do. We'll turn and walk away, unsure as to when, exactly, we'll see each again.
Our bridge may still be under construction, but we have the tools to build it and an adventurous spirit to cross it. Who knew the architectural plans of our bridge would be drawn in our travel docs?
It feels good turning a new page in our lives. Thanks, in part, to our passports.
I've always been skittish of those who begged for money on street corners. "Don't make eye contact…maybe this vagrant will go away." I'd say to myself. Keeping my windows rolled up, I'd lock the doors, and hope for the light to change. "Where do you live, anyway?" I'd say under my breath, more of a comment then a question. Slowly… despondently, the man would pass by my locked fortress. I'd lift the phone to my ear, pretending to be on a call. Dehumanize them in my mind, and I don't have to care.
Recently, I caught a green light and passed a homeless guy at breakneck speed. As he got smaller in my rearview mirror, something clicked. I paused, and began to think about where he really might live. "What if he lived inside his own locked fortress?" I thought. Not on a street, but in a car? And what if he wasn't alone? What if he had a family in there with him?
It turns out it wasn't a "what if" question at all. It was a "where?" And the "where" seems to be everywhere. It's all around us. I was driving around in what thousands of families in this country are forced to call "home."
"There's this thing called NIMBY-ism." Brent Trotter, President of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, told me. "It means, Not-In-My-Back-Yard." The problem is, it's already there - a "third-world" emerging right under our noses. And even when we see it, we don't recognize it. "You don't recognize it, because homeless people look just like you and me." Trotter said.
Not recognize it? Surely, Brent was mistaken. And looking, "just like you and me?" Was that some sort of joke? I don't look like a homeless person - I look, well…I look, normal.
Most of us are just two paychecks away from being homeless. It's an alarming statistic. Even more disconcerting, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is the poverty level for a family of four has dropped to just above $22,000 a year. Causing homelessness to not only be a prevalent problem in our country, but a real issue in our own community.
In Seminole County last year, the recession forced Jennifer and her son, nine year-old Christopher, to move into their car.
Driving from lot to lot, they'd sleep in the seats of their cramped, 2003 Ford Focus. Christopher sprawled in the back with a blanket that used to fit his bed. Jennifer stayed in front - keeping watch throughout the night. She cranked the car's engine for heat, using gas that cost money she didn't have. The trunk became their closet, the glove box their drawer.
They brushed their teeth in Wal Mart bathrooms, and took showers in the storeroom of a local business owned by a friend. They sneaked in before the store opened - embarrassed to be living out front. While Jennifer worked, Christopher spent the day alongside classmates who never knew there was anything wrong. Homework took place at the public library, dinner at a fast-food restaurant then back to the parking lot: "home" for the night.
Their clothes were never dingy. Jennifer didn't push shopping carts along sidewalks, and the Nike's Christopher wore were purchased at a thrift store. They didn't look like typical homeless, because there's nothing typical about it.
Throwing change into the Salvation Army kettle is but a drop in the bucket. While the holidays may be over, the destitute are still out there. Homelessness isn't a seasonal problem. And homeless people are just that: people.
Brent issued a challenge: run towards that which disturbs me. And while I may not be running at an all out sprint, I am moving in that direction. I realize now, not only has the face of homeless changed, it's becoming all too common. And it's not just about giving change – it's about changing the way I perceive homelessness and those enduring it.
It starts with one person - one person changing their mind, so their heart can follow. I changed my mind about what homelessness looks like, and that's changed the heart of the matter for me. I'm hopeful others will follow. "Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world." Anthropologist, Margaret Meade said. "Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."