“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid

“The Longest Week” at 35: The First Major Story I Remembered As A Kid
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981
Waterloo Courier headline July 13, 1981.

Every five years, or a quinquennial, I pull out the old newspaper clippings like clockwork.

The gravitational pull of an unsettling anniversary continues to bring new angles and perspectives that percolate.

Age and time can do that to a person.

Over the past week, a popular question was asked on social media:“What was the first major news story you were aware of as a kid?”

Many responded: the JFK assassination, the September 11th attacks (15 years coming up), Challenger (30 years ago this past January), among many. Some also had local stories that were the first big news story that they remembered.

For me, it was, and always will be July 12, 1981.

Thirty-five years ago this evening, Waterloo, Iowa police officers Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice were gunned down during a noise dispute at a home.  A manhunt followed as the suspect, James Michael “T-Bone” Taylor, was on the loose and was eventually captured.

Taylor was and will always be the first major news story I remember vividly because that week was surreal and scary.

Page A3 of the Waterloo Courier, July 13, 1981, on the story of two Waterloo police officers slain.

To write a personal account of the story reinforces the impact that the case has in my life and the history of my hometown.

Several things have happened in the past five years since I wrote “The Longest Week” on July 12, 2011.

In March 2014, Taylor and former Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Marvin Messerschmidt died within a week of each other. Messerschmidt was the officer who chased down Taylor in a bean field outside of LaPorte City. Taylor stumbled to the ground, Messerschmidt apprehended him, ending the largest manhunt in Iowa history.

On the morning after Taylor’s death, I received a phone message from Adam Amdor. Amdor formerly worked at KWWL-TV (he currently works in public relations). Everyone’s friend Paul Yeager suggested to Adam to reach out to me.

Adam wanted to link my story to KWWL’s website story on Taylor’s death.  I was caught off guard by his request. After thinking it over (quickly), it was a story that needed to be told, for educational and historical purposes. I am a strong proponent of using history as a form of education. I called Adam and left a voice mail, giving my permission to link my post.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of reaction, comments, or something trollish.

It didn’t happen.

What did happen was that people read the post to get an understand the events of that hot humid week in July 1981 in the eyes of a five-year old kid. To this day, it is the most read blog post on this site.

The Taylor story stands out as a moment that remains a permanent fixture in the Cedar Valley.

———————————–

“Hi, are you the one who wrote about T-Bone Taylor?”

The Facebook message blinked across my screen two weeks after Taylor’s death.

“Yes, I am the person who wrote it.”

Her request was simple. She was attempting to write a book about the slayings and the eventual forgiveness of Taylor and the families affected.

I consented to help, but I acknowledged to her that I did not know all of the details of what was said and done, outside of what I remembered and the recollections of my father. Remember, I was five years old. Five year old kids see everything and asks a lot questions that adults do not feel comfortable answering, especially at that time.

We traded information on what we gathered. I felt that she has some salient material to go with, especially the time period from the trial until Taylor’s death. That angle was one of great interest to me.

After a month or so, due to personal issues, she abandoned the project. I never heard from her after that. It was unfortunate, but as the cliché goes “life gets in the way” and it does.

—————————–

Once in a while, I’ll glance at the post, and the late Randy Brubaker comes to mind. Brubaker was the Des Moines Register’s news desk editor. Randy passed away from heart failure in May 2014. Bru grew up in Waterloo, and he knew all about the Taylor case.

“Bru” sent me an email days after the original post in ’11. Bru said that it would be a good idea to pitch the story to the Register’s editorial board because it was one of the biggest stories in Iowa over the last 50 years.

I sent an email to Randy Evans, who was on the editorial board until his retirement about a year ago. That idea didn’t go anywhere, but it was worth pitching a story.

IMG_1879

When I wrote the original story, the one thing I never did was to pull out the old clippings, take a picture of them, and post them. I decided to do it for this post. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has several more archives of “the longest week” (front page headlines, the manhunt, and the timeline).

I don’t know why this story continues to be a major part of my life.

Maybe I do know why. I lived through that week. My grandparents and father had an indirect connection to it. I remember the weather, the sense of fear, the surrealism of the events.

The best answer for it?

It was the first major news story I remembered as a kid, and it’s the one I can never forget.

Feeding Frenzy

Before she was convicted of 1st degree murder, I didn’t know anything about Jodi Arias. It’s probably why I don’t watch cable television. I haven’t had had cable in two years. (National Enquirer)

Former college classmate Chris Thomas penned an entry on his blog last month on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing. Chris wrote about how the zeal of “being the first” with a story causes the media to make too many mistakes and trip over themselves.

He points out that viewers, and society in general, are also to blame for the “gimme gimme gimme” culture of immediate information. We have become so impatient for information right away, that if a media outlet doesn’t crank out the story first, we’ll find someone who will give it to us first.

I felt his post deserves to be mentioned on the heels of two major stories over the last couple of weeks.

I didn’t follow the Jodi Arias murder trial. I don’t know anything about Arias. All I know is this (after I read the back story): her boyfriend was stabbed and shot multiple times, she changed her story several times, and some weird sex stuff was mentioned.

The next thing you know, Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Ashleigh Banfield were all over this trial like vultures on a dead body (seriously, vultures were all over a dead body).

The media is giving us what we want to see and hear: murder, sex, and lies. We love stuff like this.

Is that the media’s fault?  Nope. It’s us, the viewers.

Charles Ramsey, the unlikely hero who freed and alerted Cleveland police of three missing women held captive in a Cleveland home for nearly a decade, is not only a household name and YouTube sensation, but his past history is now part of the story.  Ramsey has had a history of physical abuse.

Ramsey isn’t perfect. Many of us has had past transgressions that are shameful. With that said, all of us wanted to know so much about Charles, that his past, eventually, was going to be brought up.

Some are quick to blame the media, but as Chris pointed out, we the viewers and consumers of information have to share the blame as well. In our obsessive quench for immediate information, we don’t think about making sure the information is vetted properly, until an outlet like CNN makes a mistake and we take them to task.

So, the next time a breaking story comes across Twitter, Facebook, or on television, show some restraint and patience. If we expect the media to “get it right” than to “be the first”, then we have to adopt that principle as well.

The Value of “Skills and Expertise” on LinkedIn: What Does It Really Say About Me?

The fabulous Becky Mollenkamp posed a question this morning on Twitter

“Wow, I must be really good.  People I don’t know are endorsing me on LinkedIn. (Seriously, why would you endorse someone you don’t know?)”

I was wondering the same thing.  Not that I don’t mind being endorsed by people I know, but I have to ask myself about the skills and expertise that I profess to be great at. 

What am I an “expert” in? 

Let’s go down the list of the skills and expertise I’ve been “endorsed” for: 

Social media:  I know how to use social media, mainly for recreational use and to help plug a few people, things, and causes.  I know nothing about measuring the “return on investment” and “value” social media provides to a business, and the metrics of who follows what on social media.  I toss stuff on Twitter to see if it sticks.

Event planning:  I should clarify this.  I don’t consider myself as an event planner.  I don’t plan events.  I help “coordinate” events so that the logistics are in sync, people are where they should be and doing what they are assigned to do, as well as putting out small fires.  I’m not really a coordinator.  I keep things in order.

Fundraising:  the one area where I need the biggest improvement in.  I don’t know how to raise money (translation = get on my hands and knees and beg you to give money to a cause).  I suck in asking for money.  

Program management:  see event planning.  I keep things in order.

Editing:  I’ve never edited a book, magazine, or anything on a grand scale.  But give me a manual and ask me to proofread it or tweak it, yeah, I can do that.

Microsoft Office:  everyone knows how to use Microsoft Office.  It shouldn’t be considered a requirement on job descriptions, because we all use it as a function at work every day..

Social networking:  I network with people…socially.  I admit, I’m still having a difficult time learning how to use LinkedIn as a virtual business networking tool.  As far as networking in person, I’m still intimidated by people in high places (or are in better jobs/have better job titles).  What do I really offer as a service to them if we decide to network? 

I know there has to be a better way to use LinkedIn effectively, without using it as a way to collect virtual business cards from people to add to my online Rolodex.  I feel like a sleazy used car salesman doing that. 

Don’t misconstrue that I’m selling myself short on my skills.  I have to be honest in what I have done with my skills and how I have used them.  With that in mind, what does my “skills” tell others who see my LinkedIn profile?  Is it of value enough to be hired by employers?  Is it “business”-focused?  Does it offer “return of investment” for an employer? 

What does your “skills and expertise” really say to you when you read it?

Don’t Like It? Then Don’t Follow or Tweet About It

People have different ways to mourn and remember an individual.  I have learned that you can’t tell people how to mourn and remember.  Frankly, it’s none of my business to tell people that they have no business spending their time on something that isn’t a big deal to me.  

With that said, there has been a disturbing trend of certain people feeling the need to admonish or lecture people on social media (Twitter and Facebook in particular) about who to mourn, how to mourn, and telling them that one person’s death is more important as someone else’s death.  

Personally, I think it’s insulting and revolting.  No one person’s death is important that another person’s death.  In fact, there are no comparisons and should be no comparisons.   

Last I checked, I never tweeted, Facebooked, or told anyone that they should stop mourning Whitney Houston and mourn servicemen and servicewomen because they are more important than Houston. 

And neither should you.  If you don’t want to read the tweets or the posts about Whitney Houston, Jerry Sandusky, SOPA/PIPA, or anyone else, let me give you one advice: 

Get off of Twitter for a while, or better yet, stop bitching about it.  If I can ignore all of the Houston tribute tweets, why is it so difficult for you to do that?  No, you don’t have an excuse.  You can ignore and follow the threads or topics that you care about. 

But stop getting on social media and blasting people who care about things that you don’t care about.  I don’t care much for some topics, so I don’t tweet or write about them. 

It’s simple as that. 

People who complain and whine are individuals who look for something to complain and whine about.  If you don’t have a vested interest in a news story or topic, ignore it and move on.  Like an adult. 

Houston’s daughter has more important things to deal with. 

Like burying her mother. 

Not reading what jackasses like me are tweeting about. 

Sports and News Links – May 12, 2011

Jay Mariotti's fall from grace gets worst.

We’ve had some news popping up in the sports world over the past 2 days.  Let’s get to the business at hand.

  • The downfall of national sportswriter and provocateur Jay Mariotti has taken another sad and sorry turn.  Mariotti was charged with three felonies, including felony stalking, after he confronted his ex-girlfriend on the same day a court ordered him to stay away from her.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Mariotti was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of disobeying a court order.  He confronted his former girlfriend on two recent occasions, last September and this past April 15th. 
  • The L.A. Times also has this gem of a story.  Facebook disabled the account of Mark Zuckerberg.  No, not that Mark Zuckerberg, but Mark S. Zuckerberg, a bankruptcy attorney in Indianapolis. Facebook thought that the lawyer was pulling a joke on them with his name.  He wasn’t.  Mr. Mark S. Zuckerberg should sue the other Mark Zuckerberg, if you asked me.
  • Steve Wieberg of USA Today writes about the NCAA paying sports and entertainment marketer Intersport to “cease and desist” using the term “March Madness”.  How much did it cost the NCAA to scratch a check to Intersport?  Well, there are ($) 17.2 million reasons why the NCAA was willing to go to great depths to keep “March Madness” in their pockets.  Cha-ching!
Regardless how the Lakers lost to Dallas and your opinion of the guy, Phil Jackson was more than a coach. He knew how to manage people and press buttons to win 10 NBA titles.
  • Ed Sherman of Crain’s Chicago Business puts Phil Jackson’s legacy in a fair and balanced perspective.  But does it mean that the Zenmaster is done coaching?  Well, for all intenstive purposes, he is calling it a career as the Lakers’ head coach.  Noticed I said “Lakers”.  Golfing has never been Phil’s forte.
  • NHL’s bad boy enforcer Sean Avery of the New York Rangers did a TV ad in support of gay and lesbian rights.  No big deal, right?  Well, not for an obscure sports agent by the name of Todd Reynolds of Uptown Sports Management, who represent other NHL players.  Reynolds felt the need to tweet his “sadness” towards Avery for his misguided support for gays and lesbians.  When pressed to answer why he would tweet that comment, Reynolds tweeted that he wasn’t “intolerant of gays and lesbians” (which is translation for “I don’t mean to offend anyone, but…I’m going to offend anyway) and then a Canadian sportscaster, Damien Goddard, jumped in the fray with his tweet defending Reynolds comments.  Goddard was canned on Wednesday afternoon by his employer, Rogers Sportsnet.

As my fellow Wartburg alum Tom Buchheim have said, athletes need to be careful what they tweet.  The same goes for agents and media personnel.  I’m glad to know that Emily Carlson of WHO-TV will not have that problem!

And I didn’t mention my man Gus Johnson.  Mr. Rise and Fire will be taking his talents to Fox Sports.   That was not cold-blooded.  It’s called business.

That’s it for now.

News and Sports Links – April 6, 2011

 

The Great Kenny Powers...still (trying and failing) livin' the dream...

I’m working on a few topics that I doing some research on, so in lieu of that, and to erase some of the memories of an offensive-inept national championship game on Monday (between Butler and UConn), let’s hit the “links.”

  • Thanks to friend Megan Hilger for this story from The Awl, written by Maria Bustillos, about the late writer David Foster Wallace and his vast library of personal notes and documents.  Those papers will be made available to the public.  Wallace committed suicide in 2008.
  • One of my favorite sports bloggers John Infante of The Bylaw Blog has an interesting point of view about Connecticut’s (UConn) win over Butler for the NCAA Division I-A basketball championship.  Expect teams that are or will be on probation to win national titles.  There is no such thing as a pristine program in Division I, II, III, or NAIA anymore.
  • Finally, Alex Pappademas of GQ catches up with actor Danny McBride (aka Kenny Powers of “Eastbound and Down” and the new movie “Your Highness”) and picks his brain.  Is Pappademas sure he wants to do that?

 

It sounds like it’s going to be another nice day outside.  Take advantage of it and enjoy it.

Role Reversal

 

Ben Milne of Dwolla. Watch the video of his talk from the BIZ Luncheon.

 

“I’m the dumbest guy in the room.”

Ben Milne, CEO of Dwolla

 

Growing up, I was always the “smartest guy in the class”.  I knew more about current events, sports, and miscellaneous facts than all of the other kids in school.  One classmate asked if she could have my brain so she could pass her social studies test.

Today, I wonder if being “the smartest guy in the room” means anything anymore.  Being the smartest guy meant following a script:  get all A’s in school, go to college, get a job, get married, move up the ladder, start a family, make money, yada yada yada.

It was always the “you have to do this, if you want to get to here” road to success.

That script, which I was told to follow and I followed it because it was “the right thing to do” has made me “the dumbest guy in the room.”  I cut myself off from trying or doing different things because someone told me that my dreams and passion was stupid.  I was told to go into a career field that I was never “felt smart” in.  I am an analytical sort of fellow, never creative or imaginative.

I was told to use my smarts to get ahead and succeed.  Oh, I worked hard, but I overworked, stressed myself out, and was never given credit for anything. I felt dumb, used, and washed up.

Bill Gates dropped out of college.  A few others took a detour path and found their drive and motivation.

Sitting and listening to Ben last week talk about how he started selling speakers from his couch to creating Dwolla has made me wished I wasn’t so “smart.”

Because Ben isn’t the dumbest guy in the room.  He’s the most intelligent, humble, and brightest guy in the room.

He didn’t follow that stupid script.  I was the dummy who did.