Alan Etter – Man About Town
Do you know someone who moves through life with ease in transitioning from one career to another ? Someone who has varied interests and excels at all of them? Someone who is musically gifted and loves entertaining? Someone who lives full time on a boat? If not, then you need to meet Alan Etter, news anchor for WTOP Radio in Washington, DC.
It was during his high school years in Richlands, Virginia that Alan discovered his love of and talent for music. Buying a Sears guitar and a Mel Bay music book with money he earned from mowing lawns he taught himself to play. His plan was to become a professional musician. And it appeared that he was on target in the early 1980’s when he joined a four-man band that toured as the opening act for ZZ Top, Jefferson Starship and the Allman Brothers among others. As probably many mothers of musicians think, Alan’s mother doubted the suitability of her son making a living in a traveling band. Even though the band was successful and Alan loved the music, he eventually accepted the counsel of his mother and moved to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University.
Alan’s ability to undertake multiple tasks and excel in each became apparent during college as he completed his four-year journalism degree in two and a half years, while volunteering as a firefighter for Henrico County and working full time as a news reporter and anchor for WRVA Radio in Richmond. College years set the stage for his transition to Washington, DC in 1990 where he has made his mark in the community working in public information with the District of Columbia Fire Department, public relations for the former Greater Southeast Hospital, vice president for public relations at the University of the District of Columbia and currently reporter and anchor for WTOP Radio.
His love of firefighting and skill in journalism was combined while serving as the Public Information Officer for the District of Columbia Fire Department from 2001 to 2009. He says it was a favorite time in his life, hanging around firehouses and sharing stories with the public about fire department personnel who risk their lives daily. His commitment to telling stories about emergency personnel took a very dramatic turn during the events of September 11, 2001. Alan was returning downtown after taking his children to school in Charles County, when he noticed a plane flying very low over the Potomac River. He had already heard on his radio about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers, but didn’t immediately connect this low flying plane to that event. However, by the time he had reached the Douglas Bridge he could see the smoke rising above the Pentagon and realized what had occurred.
Driving straight to the Pentagon he was one of the early witness’s to the carnage and destruction that resulted from the plane crashing into the building. Arlington County took the lead that day on rescue operations but they did not have a public relations officer, so Alan was drafted to fill that role and spent several days on site. He says his most memorable moment and one that haunts him to today was meeting a man in the parking lot of the Pentagon the next day who told Alan he was waiting for the fire fighters and emergency responders to find his wife since she hadn’t returned home from work the previous day. Alan immediately knew that if his wife had been alive she would have already been located and reunited with her husband. He says to this day he has never learned the man’s name but sees his face and the pain he was enduring every day.
It was during his time with the fire department that Alan chose to live on a boat. He wanted to be in a central location in order to get to emergency sites quickly. He had a friend who owned a boat and it seemed like an enjoyable way of life. In spite of a waiting list at the Gangplank Marina, he was able to secure a slip there and found a forty five foot powerboat from a dealer in Chestertown, Maryland. He loves the community at the marina, saying everyone knows each other and they depend on one another. So far the only negative he’s found living on a boat is that even with heaters the winter can be a little daunting. But watching the sunrises with a cup of coffee or a sunset with a glass of wine from the deck of his boat make any complaints disappear.
Currently Alan is back working in journalism as a reporter and anchor for WTOP Radio. His interest and knowledge of a variety of topics serves him well as just in the last month he has reported on the reduction of federal tax credits, use of Metro cards, shopping on Black Friday, reaction of veterans on the government shutdown, followup on the Capitol Hill shooting, how studying lobsters may lead to ways to prolong human life and an analysis of football players with concussions. He claims he’s just nosy but he has a real interest in people and the events that shape their lives and he’s good at telling those stories.
For the past several years he has also found time for his early love; music. Along with Jodie Knox, a fellow boat resident in the marina and member of the Coast Guard, he has formed a two-man band called the Mighty Seacocks. He says they have a repertoire of about three hundred songs and will play anything but like country and blues. They perform almost every week and love to entertain at fire and police department events.
Alan is one of those people who make life appear easy and enjoyable. He has made his mark as a volunteer firefighter, public information officer and news reporter and anchor gaining respect and admiration from colleagues. He lives a unique life style on a boat creating envy among many friends. And he provides fun and entertainment for all who hear “The Mighty Seacocks”.
~ Written by: Sylvia Winterling