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peak:

The fun weekend I had in the Memphis metro area with Jessie.


valley:

That there's no "real" food to eat for dinner in my house.


noise:

Silence.


sustenance:

PB&J sandwich.


thoughts:

Strange people and the things they do.


Sunday, june 25th

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Quote Du Jour:
"Me against the world. Ain't nobody on my side, but I got all the evidence and everything. All I need is to stay alive." (Mr. Bad Guy on the phone to a TV station after allegedly shooting two people and taking two more hostage Thursday.)


Thursday was a day I had intended to spend out of the office, anyway. I've been working on a project at work and needed to scout out some photograph ideas for it out in the community. I went to pick up some lunch and ran by my house. My brother met me at the back door with the phone. It was my paper calling.

It seems that someone had walked into the office and claimed that there was a hostage situation at an airstrip near the county line. The office called me and asked me to confirm the report and find out more information. My sources in local and county government confirmed the report... and, of course, some of my "reliable" sources included some embellishments. One told me that two hostages were dead and two more had been shot. Another kept the number of injured at two and reduced the death count to one.

To get the truth, I headed to the airstrip.

I love going to the scene of news. Afterall, if you want to get to the bottom of something, you need to be where the bottom is. (Unfortunately, many folks I know try the "distance reporting" approach. Sure, it's safer and easier. But what you gain in safety and convenience, you lose in reporting quality and accuracy). On my trip to the scene, I felt a little uneasy... which is unusual. I've seen a lot of stuff and covered a variety of breaking stories for the papers I've worked for... and very little really bothers me.

Thursday's crisis took place in a quiet town with only a couple of hundred citizens. It seemed, however, that the population had doubled for the day and the atmosphere was anything but quiet. When I arrived on scene, the street that led to the airstrip was lined with dozens of patrol cars from every nearby police agency and ambulances from four communities. Local fire engines, FBI agents, SWAT trailers and television satellite trucks would join the mix before the day was over. From talking with locals, this was more action than the town had ever seen.

After getting a small briefing from some fellow media-types and a couple of sources on the scene, the wait began. This allowed time for some interviews, speculation on what was going to happen and lots of sitting, standing and pacing.

I had arrived at the scene somewhere in the neighborhood of 2:30 p.m. The situation was already an hour and a half old by this time. A native of this small community had returned to his home town earlier in the week. Shortly after lunch Thursday, he hijacked a man's truck -- taking hostage number one. He drove the truck to the airstrip where a young man and the wife of the strip's pilot were working in an office -- taking hostages #2 & #3.

Mr. Bad Guy allegedly ordered the woman to radio for her husband (who was in the air) to land his plane. After landing, the pilot was shot in the abdomen. He took refuge in a nearby building and dialed 911. About this time, the female hostage (#3) was pistol whipped and the young male hostage (#2) was shot in the arm and the abdomen. The young male (#2) managed to escape after the shooting. He ran to a home near the strip where residents called 911 and administered first aid. By the time I was on the scene, the gun play was over and the injured had been transported to hospitals.

From the time the shooting was over (between 1:30 & 2:00) and 8:40 p.m., Mr. Bad Guy kept his first hostage and the pilot's wife in the airstrip office. Outside, snipers waited for an order to shoot, SWAT teams geared up and negotiators waited to talk to Mr. Bad Guy.

"He was on the phone with everyone in the world except us," said one police captain. Instead of talking with police, Mr. Bad Guy called television stations and suggested that the state wanted to kill him for information he had. He also requested a radio station to play a certain song for him.

Finally, as the sun was setting below the horizon, Mr. Bad Guy proved that he was a little like the others on the scene... and that he was growing tired of the situation... and that he wanted it to be over. The police allowed the media to get closer. We gathered near a patrol car. Some stood in the open and without protection to get a shot of the action while others sought safety behind the car and behind others. He released his original hostage first (around 8:30) and about 10 minutes later, he gave himself up after allowing police to carry the pilot's wife from the front of the building.

I was at the air strip for another hour talking with police officers and one of the hostages. By the time I was finished with my work, the somewhat chaotic atmosphere that was in place only hours before was gone. The SWAT team had packed up and left... as did the ambulances, fire engines and most of the police cruisers. The small street in the small town was quiet once again. The saga that took place there was over... leaving photographs to be developed, stories to be written and the bodies & souls of those directly involved to be healed. (2110)


May God bless the victims & help them with their physical and emotional pain. May He treat the perpetrator with justice and mercy. And may He allow all of us to learn a lesson from the events of that day. Amen. (2119)

copyright © 2000-02, Thomas Fletcher. all rights reserved.