Reflections from an ancient newsroom

“Terrorism: Explosions rock New York, D.C.” screamed the Palladium-Item headline on Sept. 11, 2001.

Yes, in those days the Palladium actually captured the day’s breaking news.

It was news that would change the lives of every U.S. citizen forever.

The day had started with the casual 5-minute ride to work. Kids were in school and wife was at her job. As I eased my car into its parking spot, the radio guy interrupted the morning jangle of music with news that a small plane appeared to have hit a tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

By the time I walked into the newsroom, a gaggle of PI employees had surrounded the TV to watch the Trade Center tower smoldering. We stood and watched startled and confused.

What in the hell was happening?

In a few moments, confusion turned to horror. We watched as a second plane cruised through the sky and ripped into the second tower, issuing a huge fireball.

Everyone stopped and the moment was frozen in time. It can’t be. It cannot be. This can’t be happening. It began to sink in. We were under attack and we were watching it live on TV.

People gasped. I might have been one of them.

Everyone watched in total shock. Then we did what journalists often do in these situations. We met.

Bill Church was managing editor. I never liked Bill much and he liked me even less. But this seemed to be a situation he was made for. He began barking orders, delegating where possible, but mostly he took command of the copy desk that was tasked with putting the finishing touches on that day’s paper.

In those days pictures came over the Associated Press wire on a separate machine a few feet from the copy desk. He stationed a copy editor at the machine, who screamed out what pictures were coming across as he tore up the front page and began watching the news wire for updates.

What in the hell was happening?

Church broke only to yell at the jabbering group of staff gathered at the TV to quiet down and get to work. We were drawn to the TV like moths to a flame.

As the morning drifted into afternoon I was tasked with calling the Army Reserve and National Guard centers, the state police and local sheriff’s and police for any news of their status, any updates. I also called Fred Griffin at county emergency management for any news there.
“I know what you know,” he said in his calm, professional manner. “Go back to your TV.”

Later, I trundled off to the American Legion and VFW posts for reaction. Everywhere people were gathered in shock around their TVs.

Many things stick out in my mind from that day but two more clearly than the others. And they both give me chills to this day. First is Pam Isaacson, our education reporter and a native New Yorker, literally in tears as we all watched first the first then the second tower collapse. How many were dead? Five thousand? Ten thousand?

The second is Bob Johnson, our promotions director and an ex-military intelligence man, calmly sitting around the copy desk saying, “There’s only one person in the world who could have done this, Osama Bin Laden.”

The day was manic. There were additional reports of the Pentagon being hit, another plane crashed in Pennsylvania, possible gas and food shortages, planes everywhere being grounded.

What in the hell was happening?

The rest is a blur. Night classes (I was teaching at the time) were cancelled at Indiana University East, Earlham students and faculty joined hands in silent prayer, families with relatives in New York and Washington called frantically for news of their loved ones.

We at the Palladium continued our vigil while trying to find local people to share their thoughts and find contacts of relatives directly touched by the disaster.

We published an extra edition. “Terrorism strikes home,” the headline screamed, followed by a quote from President Bush, “Freedom itself was attacked this morning and I assure you, freedom will be defended.”

Residents expressed shock, anger, fear. Some likened the attack to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that brought us into World War II.

As I drove home that night I saw an absurdly long line of cars waiting to buy gas at 16th and Main. Moments later I heard a frightening sonic boom as (I assumed) Air Force One roared overhead, bringing President Bush back to Washington.

That night, with children tucked safely in bed, my wife and I watched hour after hour of coverage of the attack. We couldn’t turn it off and walk away. Thousands of innocents were dead.

In the days going forward we explained the attack to our children and, in the years since, we have come to terms with the whole tragedy and the wars and ongoing terrorism that has become part of our lives.

We’ve come to terms with a different world. But we’ve never forgotten.

Great news for RAM

It was Great News Tuesday for the Richmond Art Museum with the announcement that $1.3 million has been raised in a capital campaign for improvements.

The goal, said art museum executive director Shaun Dingwerth, is to raise $1.6 million over the next six months to update and improve the museum’s galleries, its climate control and fire suppression systems, create a new gallery space dedicated to the Richmond Group art colony and improve technology.

The campaign is titled Renewing a Masterpiece.

Dingwerth Tuesday said lead donors in the campaign are Paul and Pat Lingle, Dr. Dana Reihman and Dr. Eileen Cravens and the late William Starr.

Dingwerth said the remaining $300,000 will be raised over the next six month and work is scheduled to begin in February 2017 and last four to six months.

Robin Henry is campaign chairman. She announced that an anonymous donor has pledged $100,000 to the campaign if local volunteers can raise $200,000. That pledge campaign begins today and runs through Dec. 31.

The Richmond Art Museum was founded as the Richmond Art Association in 1898 and is the only active public art museum in the U.S. that is housed in a public school.

The museum’s collection has been hailed as a Midwest treasure by art experts. It’s collection includes works by important impressionist artists like John Elwood Bundy, William Merritt Chase, Frank Duveneck, Marcus Mote and T.C. Steele. It also includes a significant collection of ceramics by the Overbeck sisters of Cambridge City.

The campaign will also support educational programs at the museum. Dingwerth said the museum offers 280 programs annually, most aimed at students, and serves 7,700 young people each year.

Donations can be made at richmondartmuseum.org, by mail at P.O. Box 816, Richmond, IN 47375 or in person at the museum, located at the north end of Richmond High School, 350 Hub Etchison Parkway.

Joining museum volunteers at Tuesday’s announcement were mother and daughter TV personalities, Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak, who appear on the HGTV home renovation series “Good Bones.” The women are known for revitalizing the Fountain Square neighborhood in Indianapolis.

Gorge discussion continues

It was a diverse group who attended Wednesday’s discussion of future plans for the Whitewater Gorge through Richmond at the Richmond City Building.

But they had one thing in common, they all were interested in the Gorge.

And, though there was nothing decided, there were a dozen opinions as to what should come next.

The main one was voiced by Ray Ontko, who represented the Richmond Shakespeare Festival at the gathering of about 25 people.

“My main hope at this point is that we update our Gorge plan to see where we are, where we can go next and how we can get there,” Ontko said. “By doing that we can look at what’s the next major effort to tackle and how we go about it.”

The next best opinion came from Richmond Parks Superintendent Denise Retz, who said,  “I think we all agree that the Gorge is hugely important to all of us and to our community.”

Those attending heard a summary of the past Gorge plan, which is now over five years old, presented by Kevin Osborn of Rundell Ernstberger Associates of Indianapolis, the consulting firm hired to do the previous report.

Osborn discussed previous plans and accomplishments in the Starr Gennett Valley, Veterans Memorial Park and the Gorge land in between. He then highlighted plans for the future, presented in the past, that included an “elevated” walking trail on the east rim of the Gorge, a “Gorge Park” just south of the Third and D streets trail head for the Cardinal Greenway Trail and a visitor’s or interpretative center on land just south of the Main Street Bridge.

Those attending wanted to talk about connecting the entire trail with features like the Starr Gennett Valley, trail heads, veteran’s park, downtown Richmond and the city’s Depot District.

They also wanted to find new ways to create more access for people into the park.

“I don’t think we can create a vision for the Gorge without solving the problem with connection,” said Joe Hellrung, president of the board for the Society for Preservation and Use of Resources (SPUR). “There is a spectacular trail system south of the Starr Gennett area that should not be forgotten.”

Hellrung pointed out that if SPUR had not begun acquiring and developing Gorge land 50 years ago there would probably be no Gorge trail and no Starr Gennett Valley today.

“And we need better access to what’s in the Gorge,” Ontko said. “We need to let people know what’s down there and help them get there.”

Discussion also focused on developing the “little depot,” just south of the Third and D trailhead, but Len Vonderhaar, president of the Wayne County Rail Roaders Association, said action must come soon to preserve the historic building.

“There are several holes in the roof and every rain is a threat to that building,” he said. He added that the railroaders would be happy to help with that project.

Retz said a feasibility study must be done soon to get an accurate picture of what must come next to the depot and to establish costs.

“These things don’t happen quickly but I know the longer we wait the greater chance of further decay of that building,” she said.

David Fulton of the Starr Gennett Foundation also discussed possible ways to better display the medallions placed in the “valley” commemorating the various artists who made recordings there.

In the end, Retz said REA will update the Gorge plan and another meeting will be set.

“If anyone has any additional ideas they should call me at 983-PARK or send me an email,” she said.

Overall, the meeting was a success in part because of the groups attending. There were park board and Richmond Common Council members there, along with representatives of the veterans park, railroaders, SPUR, Starr Gennett Foundation, tourism bureau, Shakespeare Festival, even Hayes Arboretum.

No one talked money, which, of course, was the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but the discussion was lively and showed, as Retz said, “that people really care about the Gorge and it’s future.”

I, for one, came in thinking the meeting was a waste of time, and the idea of a welcome or interpretive center one of the dumbest ideas of the year.

But upon further review, I guess, why not? Why not let people know the history of the Gorge, the settlers, the mills, the Starr Piano Company and Gennett Records, what the SPUR folks have done, what the veterans have done, the Starr Gennett Walk of Fame, and throw in information about downtown Richmond, the Depot District, Earlham College, etc.

Then let’s get people into the Gorge through festivals and other events.

In my opinion, that might just be a good idea. At least it’s something worth talking, and dreaming, about.

Beaman leaves park board

The Richmond Parks and Recreation Board of Directors is down one board member today after Deanna Beaman resigned last week.

Beaman had served on the board for two years, but some in the community had questioned her park board role versus her role as part owner of the group that owned first the Richmond River Rats baseball team and now the Richmond Jazz.

The Roosters, as you might remember, used McBride Stadium, which is owned by the parks department and controlled of the park board, under a facilities use agreement. The team played at McBride for several years before dissolving last year.

And now the Jazz is contracting with the city and parks department to use McBride for baseball this summer.

Beaman said she has always avoided any potential conflict of interest while conducting park board business.

In her resignation letter to the board Thursday, said “I have always recused myself and abstained from voting on any measure involving my work with one of the baseball teams or any related facility.”

Snow said that he had discussed the issue with Beaman recently but did not ask her to step down.

“I am tremendously supportive of the work Deanna has done for our community, especially as a member of the park board,” he said. “The decision to resign was all hers. But as a matter of transparency, I think it was a good decision.”

In her letter, Beaman said:

“I have had a passion for outdoor recreation for most of my life, which spurred me into a career of working with and supporting baseball teams for our community to enjoy. I have spent many years working to create an atmosphere in which our community members can come and enjoy “America’s favorite past time.”

In her letter Beaman called this is a “transformative time” for the parks department and for McBride Stadium.

“Given this transformation, I do not want to create any misconceptions of a conflict of interest in my serving on the board. My departure from the board will also give me more time to partner with the city and the parks department in order to assist in the revitalization of the future as it pertains to athletic facilities in our community.”

Park board president Mike Foley praised Beaman’s contribution during Thursday’s meeting.

“She has done a tremendous job for the parks department and for our community. It’s been an honor to serve with her on this board and she will be missed,” he said.

Beaman’s seat on the park board is by mayoral appointment, and Snow said he will begin the search for a replacement this week.

Foley is board president, Beaman was vice president and Tiuana Washington is secretary. I am the fourth member and Clay Miller is a non-voting member representing the Richmond Common Council.

Beaman has agreed to serve on the new McBride Stadium Advisory Committee that will assist park officials with short and longterm planning for McBride.

Happy Trails in Richmond

It’s a good day in Richmond for those who continue the work to build hiking and biking trails in the community.
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow today announced that the city has received a $250,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to help with the creation of a new trail leg on the city’s north side.
The grant, which comes from the FHA’s Recreational Trail Program and comes to the city through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is a big deal because it’s the start of the effort to build the trail east to the Ohio line.
The money will be used to pave a 10-foot-wide trail from North 12th Street to North 24th along the East Fork of the Whitewater River. The trail is to be called the National Road Heritage Trail.
The grant is the result of an unique partnership between the city and Richmond’s Society for the Preservation and Use of Resources (SPUR).
You remember the SPUR folks. They are the ones who, in the 1960s, acquired the land along the Whitewater River, from Test Road north, that 30 years later became the Whitewater Gorge Trail.
For full disclosure purposes, I am a member of the SPUR board of directors.
SPUR board members will continue the effort to take the trail east to Ohio, west to a hookup with the Cardinal Greenway Trail and (hopefully someday) north to the Indiana University East, Ivy Tech and Reid Hospital campus.
The grant requires a 20 percent local match, which will come from a $50,000 donation of land and material from SPUR.
The city has also pledged to make $14,250 worth of improvements as part of the project.
Snow said the proposed project is the first phase of a multi-year effort to extend the National Road Heritage Trail across eastern Wayne County.
SPUR board members first met Sept. 26, 1966. They acquired the northside land between 1990 and 2004.
SPUR’s stated goal is preserving natural areas, soil conservation, beautification, promoting recycling and recreation and educating the leaders of tomorrow on important conservation legislation.
SPUR board president Joe Hellrung said the grant comes at a perfect time.
“This is truly exciting news,” Hellrung said. “This being our 50th year, it’s just such a great coincidence that we are able to get this grant.”
SPUR worked with former Mayor Sally Hutton and city staff for two years on the project, submitting the application April 30, 2015.
“Sally went to bat for us several times and really came through,” Hellrung said. “This is the first step to get us to the next steps of getting a trail to Hayes Arboretum, Glen Miller Park and beyond.”
Richmond City Planner Sarah Mitchell said the announcement fits in well with the city’s plan to be a destination for entrepreneurs and young professionals, and to coincide with its development of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.
“We are expanding the trail system that will eventually travel through Richmond and across the county, and someday across the state,” Mitchell said.
Snow said one of the city’s biggest accomplishments in this time of economic downturn is to continue to promote the improvement of bicycle and pedestrian amenities.
“The proposed project is to be the first phase of a multi-year effort to extend the National Road Heritage Trail across eastern Wayne County,” Snow said.

A chance to honor Sally

For those looking for a way to honor the memory of former Richmond Mayor Sally Hutton, the Richmond Art Museum might just have the plan.
RAM recently announced the Sally Hutton Children’s Art Fund, a fund to provide scholarships for students attending RAM’s summer art camps.
The fund was established by the Richmond High School Alumni Association after that organization selected Hutton as its Distinguished Alumni in March.
Hutton never lived to receive the honor. She died April 8, seven days before she was to be feted at RHS’ annual Academic Excellence Awards dinner.
“She was my hero,” said alumni association executive director Mary Lou Griffey. “Sally was such a proud and strong woman and always supported young people. She loved the young people of this community.”
Griffey said that when Hutton died, Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau executive director Mary Walker suggested that the fund be established.
“It was perfect,” Griffey said. “We all really wanted something to have Sally’s name on it. She was so kind to me and was always willing to support the alumni association and Richmond schools.”
Griffey said the alumni award is given annually to someone who represents the school well, excels in their field and gives back to the community.
“That fit Sally to a tee,” she said.
Hutton, a 1966 RHS graduate, was a three-term Richmond mayor and served in city government for 30 years.
The RAM summer camps host about 30 Wayne County students in June and July.
“The award is to honor Sally’s commitment to youth in the community,” said RAM executive director Shaun Dingwerth. “Sally always helped us with our murals and in any other way could.
“This is a sad time for our community, but it’s a time to remember her love of Richmond and the people here,” he said.
The art camps are for ages 5 through eighth grade and allow students to explore drawing, painting and sculpture.
Anyone wishing to donate can send contributions to the Richmond Art Museum, 350 Hub Etchison Blvd., Richmond, IN 47375 or by stopping at the art museum during business hours
Contributions can also be made on line at the museum’s Website, http://richmondartmuseum.org/join-give/donations-2/.
For more information, call the art museum at (765) 966-0256.