Toledo will honor a piece of its history with the opening of its new Police Museum on June 9.
“I keep watching my countdown and think ‘Oh my goodness are we going to make it?’” said Officer Beth Cooley, who as the museum’s president continues the building’s remodel process. “We are going to make it and when it opens it’s not going to be what it is going to be in five years because it will be continuously evolving.”
The museum features many relics from the history of the Toledo police force, including books, mug shots from the 1800s, a 1948 Ford F1 panel van, a jail cell, a breathalyzer set from the 1950s. An interactive mug shot camera, a wall dedicated to Toledo’s fallen officers and numerous other artifacts are also on display.
Most of the items on display were found by the late Officer Ken Deck, who amassed them during his lifetime to help preserve them. He attempted to begin a Police Museum in 1988 in the Safety Building but it lasted only a few years before it was repurposed and the artifacts were put into storage.
“It was his personal collection and his desire to preserve history,” Cooley said. “He just had a desire to learn more about the history and preserve it and had he not done that this would not have been possible.”
Cooley was tasked last May with the planning of a new Police Museum for Toledo. Planners decided to remodel a vacant building which had formerly been a Nature Center for about 25 years, on Kenwood Street across from the Toledo Hospital. They signed a 10-year lease for the building with Mayor Mike Bell for $1 a year.
“The chief was 100 percent behind it, the mayor got behind it and when we asked him for this building he allowed us to lease for 10 years,” Cooley said. “Between the mayor and chief being behind it and the energy of the volunteers it has just snowballed.”
“This museum belongs to the city and it’s an homage to the officers past, present and future that made the city and the department what it is today,” volunteer Diane Miscannon said.
Miscannon lost her father, Officer William Miscannon, 40 years ago when he was shot while on duty in his patrol car. As a memorial to her father, the museum gave the restored 1948 paddy wagon the number 12, in honor of his unit number.
“I was so touched that they did that,” Miscannon said. “Even though my dad was killed 40 years ago, it’s exciting that they’ve remembered him.”
To celebrate the grand opening of the Toledo Police Museum, former boxer Dr. Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure will be on hand with his former trainer Ramon “Buddy” Carr on June 9. McClure, a Toledo native, won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome in the Light-Middleweight Division. McClure was in the Police Athletic League program and has donated some of his memorabilia to the museum.
Archive for May, 2011
Toledo will honor a piece of its history with the opening of its new Police Museum on June 9.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jim Tressel’s face graced the Toledo Free Press cover with a story about faith and how to live life with integrity, honesty, and virtue.
Having worked under Tressel for five seasons, my mission was to tell the story of the man behind the sweater vest.
In the wake of the NCAA scandal that rocked the football program these recent months, the vocal minority who did not support Tressel has turned into a majority, and they finally got their way.
Jim Tressel is no longer the head coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
On May 30, Tressel, along with University President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith, decided that it was in the best interest of the football program and The Ohio State University that the embattled coach tender his resignation.
The resignation, which came as unexpected news on a Memorial Day holiday when most university operations are closed, sent shockwaves through the school’s fan base.
Ever since the March 8 news conference announcing that Tressel knew that players were selling memorabilia for tattoos and other benefits prior to the December investigation that suspended five Buckeyes, the pro-Jim Tressel camp’s number appeared to have dwindled significantly.
As more time went on and the more people dug, the scandal kept getting worse until all parties involved were left with only one outcome.
The act of not forwarding the emails from former walk-on and current attorney Christopher Cicero was wrong and any self respecting fan needs to admit the act is indefensible, especially when it is written in the contract that Tressel was to do so.
In the case of the law it is called aiding and abetting.
In the world of college sports there is another label assigned: cheater.
It is difficult to lead any athletic program, even more so one that has been built on a perception of integrity and honesty, with this label.
For what it’s worth, I feel this was an act out of character for a man that has lived his life to the letter of the law: moral, legal, and spiritual.
Tressel said he was looking out for his players when he didn’t notify his bosses of the emails he received.
Most critics of the program, however, have contrived an image of Jim Tressel as a scheming behind the scenes con-artist who hides behind a false public persona to allow him to lie, cheat, and steal to win championships.
Recently lost from their collective conscience has been the all the charity work Tressel, his wife, and family have done in the community.
As a football coach, his team just posted the highest team academic progress score in the history of the program. He has coached numerous scholar athletes and touched the lives of so many young men.
The court of public opinion was judge, jury, and ultimately executioner in this case. In one act, all of the good deeds have been forgotten and cost Tressel his job.
Many a Buckeye had always asked me how I thought Jim Tressel’s tenure at Ohio State would end.
In happier times I would have said on his terms; retiring after a lengthy career as a legend in the coaching profession and scribed in the annals of Ohio State lore.
Never did I imagine it would be amidst scandal, being asked to resign by university brass, for the good of the program.
But I think we all can agree on one thing — we never thought it would be this soon.
A new educational day camp will give area teens the opportunity to learn how forensic science is used to solve crimes as Owens Community College hosts CSI Youth Camp on June 6-8.
The student detectives will enter a re-creation of an unusual and challenging crime scene where an instructor will coach the students as they use deductive skills, teamwork, math and science to solve the crime.
Students will be trained in the basic process of evidence collection, including fingerprints, fibers and hair, blood spatter (simulated), DNA, and tire and shoe prints. They will also learn how to protect the chain of evidence as they interview witnesses and develop theories while working as a team to solve the crime.
On the final day, teams will detail their theories in presentations to be critiqued by a panel of law enforcement officers and forensic scientists.
“Attendees will not know if they solved the crime until the last day of camp when the SWAT team raids a building and captures the villain, which will make for an exciting end to the CSI Youth Camp experience,” said Michael Cornell, director of the Center for Emergency Preparedness, in a news release.
The camp will run from 8 a.m. to noon Monday to Wednesday at the Toledo area campus, 30335 Oregon Road, Perrysburg, and is offered through Workforce and Community Services at the college’s Center for Emergency Preparedness.
For more information or to register, call 1-800-GO-OWENS, Ext. 7357.
Gun violence in Ohio is costing scores of lives and millions of dollars annually across the state, though much of it happens in the largest cities, according to a newspaper analysis published May 29.
The Columbus Dispatch analyzed state records and data from 2009, which offer the most recent statewide statistics available. It found guns were present in more than 12,500 incidents investigated by authorities, an average of 34 per day. Four-fifths of those happened in seven of Ohio’s largest cities: Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown.
The numbers illustrate the scope of gun violence, but it’s an incomplete picture because the crime data was submitted voluntarily by agencies that cover only about 70 percent of Ohio’s population.
Ohio had 502 reported slayings in 2009 and 62 percent involved guns, according to the FBI. Firearms also were used in 41 percent of robberies and 24 percent of aggravated assaults.
“If the citizens knew what we know, they’d never leave their house,” a Columbus officer recently told the newspaper at the scene of a gun crime.
In addition to the loss of life, gun violence can lead to huge medical expenses, some of which is paid by taxpayers through government programs. A report last year by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital determined firearm injuries in Ohio lead to an average of about $37 million annually in inpatient hospital charges, the newspaper reported. Some of those expenses are for suspected criminals injured in the violence.
“We’re going to deal with them one way or another,” said Gregory Jefferson, president and CEO of Community for New Direction, a Columbus urban-outreach organization. “We’re either going to pay for them in prison, or we’re going to pay for them for the hospitalization of the injuries. All of those costs get passed on to us.”
But the injured are not always the ones committing crimes. The thousands of gun-violence victims across Ohio include people like 26-year-old Alix Reese, whose spine was severed by a bullet when she slowed for a speed bump while driving in Columbus and got caught in a gang shootout that remains unsolved.
“This really opened my eyes to how much things like that happen in Columbus every day,” she said. “Not all the shootings are gang-on-gang violence. Innocent people get hurt, too.”
Such crimes have prompted Deanna Wilkinson, an Ohio State University associate professor who studies youth violence, to seek a federal grant to start a Columbus version of the CeaseFire gun violence reduction program, which uses former offenders to help keep conflicts from escalating into violence.
“This exposure (to gun violence), whether you’re involved or not involved, it’s having a negative impact on the quality of life for the whole entire city,” Wilkinson said.
Columbus public safety director Mitchell Brown said he supports the proposal.
“We’ve got to try something different,” Brown said. “We can’t have police officers on every corner. We all know that. It’s a societal issue.”
Murphy’s Place, the landmark Downtown Toledo jazz club, will close its doors for good following a final jam session on Tuesday night.
“Although the announcement is extremely difficult, Clifford Murphy has decided he just wants to just play music without worrying about the daily challenges of running a business,” said his daughter, Deborah Murphy in a May 30 release.
Doors will be open for a final performance on Tuesday, May 31 from 4 to 10 p.m.
Employees were notified of the closing on Saturday. The club will honor its lease agreement through mid-June but will begin vacating the premises on June 1.
“This is a great location for a music venue, and we hope a new owner might step in and give it new blood,” said Deborah Murphy.
Clifford Murphy’s longtime life partner Joan Russell managed the club’s operations until her death in January. Two of their adult children, Kevin Murphy and Deborah Murphy have run the club since then.
Murphy’s entertained jazz enthusiasts Downtown for more than 20 years – first from a location on Madison Street, and most recently at Fort Industry Square. Considered a world-class venue, visitors came here from around the world to see house favorites Clifford Murphy and pianist Claude Black, as well as touring and regional artists.
With a staff of about 300 and a student population greater than 2,800, Timothy Matheney, principal of South Brunswick High School in New Jersey, said he is almost like the CEO of a small company.
“My role is to point the school in the right direction,” he said.
He’s done a good job of it. The school, located in Monmouth Junction, won a National School of Character award this year from the Character Education Partnership based in Washington, D.C.
The National School of Character award recognizes select schools for their “outstanding character development of students,” according to the Character Education Partnership’s website. South Brunswick was one of three high schools in the nation to receive the award.
Described by South Brunswick parent Alicia Cassio as a quiet leader, Matheney, who grew up in Walbridge, has focused the school’s students on five core values of honesty, kindness, respect, responsibility and service.
Great role models
Matheney, 44, wasn’t sure he wanted a career in education when he began teaching.
But he had the profession in his blood. His father, Dean, was the assistant principal at Longfellow Elementary and his mother, Bettie, was a reading aide in the Title 1 program at Marshall Elementary.
“I’m an educator today because my parents were great role models for being curious and being avid readers … [and] lifelong learners,” he said.
Matheney attended Princeton University for his bachelor’s degree and seriously considered law school. But he discovered his love for secondary education through his involvement with a model congress. The model was designed to simulate an actual government for high school students.
Upon graduation in 1989, he decided to put off any final decision on a career and in the meantime returned to his alma mater, St. John’s Jesuit as a teacher, with the understanding that he might leave after two years. He stayed for six.
Matheney said puzzled students would often ask him why he would come back to high school and teach after attending Princeton. Because, he would answer, teaching is a fulfilling and noble profession.
“They were six really happy years in my life,” Matheney said.
Tom Harms, an English teacher at St. John’s, calls Matheney one of his best students in 34 years.
“I just remember him as such an outstanding leader and editor,” said Harms, who worked with Matheney on the school newspaper as an adviser. “He was just such a great delegator. He lifted people up.”
The national honor didn’t surprise Harms. The same qualities that impressed him while Matheney was a high school editor, he said, have served him well as the leader of a school.
“That’s what makes him so endearing as a person,” Harms said. “He is absolutely respectful, responsible, honest.”
Matheney left St. John’s in 1995 to earn his master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan. After stops at the University of Minnesota and Prior Lake High School, also in Minnesota, his career came full circle when he arrived at South Brunswick, just a few miles northeast of Princeton.
Gina Welsh, who has worked at South Brunswick for 15 years and is currently the activities coordinator, said Matheney brought with him a more directed zeal for service, honesty and integrity than had previously characterized the school.
“We were always a good school, no doubt about that,” she said. “But I think he brought that next level to our focus. Not only do we want our kids to be smart, but we want them to be good.”
A positive force
Matheney has had support, but he has led the way to success with commitment and a sense of humor.
Welsh remembered him attending a school pep rally dressed as a biker, where the cheerleading squad tossed him in the air.
Matheney, Welsh said, is intense. But, he is also devoted to “celebrating our goodness; celebrating what we do right,” she said.
“He’s not walking through the halls yelling at [students],” she said. “He’s not that kind of disciplinarian principal my generation grew up with.”
Instead, he works as a “positive” force rather than in a “darker, authoritarian overlord way,” she said. “Not that he can be walked all over. [Students] know that the rules are the rules and they will be enforced.”
The award, Matheney said, recognizes years of hard work.
“I could not have done this alone,” he said. “It’s a tribute to literally dozens of people who have helped us become that school of character.”
But that work isn’t done. He plans on holding a large-scale faculty meeting in August to discuss next steps.
“The awards are all well and good. But we need to take stock of where we are today, and where we’re going in the next couple of years.”
Matheney looks forward to being a high school principal for years to come; he’s only 44. Recently, a substitute teacher made his day by looking at him and saying, “You’re the principal? You’re so young!”
But he’s also ready to share some of the things he’s learned with others, particularly other principals. For a school to succeed in promoting character, he said, it has to be deliberate, especially because many core values are attacked in a student’s
“The good news is that if teenagers believe you have credibility, they will listen to you.”
A World War I soldier’s drawing of a night-time raid he witnessed is one of many pieces of soldiers’ artwork in a new museum devoted to history and art from World Wars I and II.
The World War History & Art Museum opened May 28 in Alliance in northeast Ohio. It includes pieces created by soldiers and others who saw the wars firsthand. Some of the nearly 300 pieces by World War I soldiers were drawn at night in the trenches.
Those pieces and more by World War II soldiers, sailors and airmen are depicted through watercolor, oil paintings and pencil and ink drawings. The work was done by military personnel representing the United States, Germany, France, Italy and other countries.
“They were soldiers and not professionals, but some of their work is very good,” museum owner and curator Joel Parkinson said.
The mostly “simple and subdued” artwork depicts the grim and sometimes routine realities of war, Parkinson said.
One of the consistent themes illustrated throughout the art collection “is that war is not fun and games,” he said.
Most of the works in the museum are from Parkinson’s personal collection of art and memorabilia. Some of it was handed down through his family, and some he collected through the years.
War relics, such as grenades, swords and even barbed wire from World War I, are among the artifacts on exhibit. There also are about 2,500 toy soldiers on display, along with front pages of newspapers leading up to World War I and Nazi press photos of Adolf Hitler.
The museum also features a coverlet made of panels embroidered by wounded soldiers recovering at a hospital in England during World War I, Parkinson said.
“Thirty soldiers recovering in a hospital ward each embroidered one square-foot panel, and then they wove all the panels together,” he said.
Parkinson did not serve in the military but said he worked as an engineer conducting nuclear research on submarines and grew up surrounded by military history and memorabilia.
“An interest in history is in my blood,” Parkinson said.
Museum hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; and closed Sundays and Mondays, except Memorial Day. It is located at 1300 E. State St., Alliance, Ohio. Alliance is approximately 175 miles in distance from Toledo, southeast of Akron.
Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children 6 and younger are admitted free.
Michael Bublé knows a thing or two about expectations and pressure.
He recalls how he felt going into his second CD, the 2005 release, “It’s Time.” Bublé was coming off of a 2003 self-titled debut CD that sold some 3.5 million copies and had turned him into the hottest of the “Great American Songbook” singers.
But in the press, his success was frequently being dismissed as a fluke, and plenty of people were predicting that the whole “Great American Songbook” craze would soon fade into oblivion.
Bublé knew what was at stake. As he told this writer in 2005, he felt he had to hit a home run with “It’s Time.”
“All I thought about was I need to make a great record, not a good record,” Bublé said then.
Music fans, obviously, liked the way Bublé responded. “It’s Time” became another major hit, with a single, “Home,” that topped Billboard magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart. Since then, the singer’s career has done nothing but gain momentum.
The 2007 CD, “Call Me Irresponsible,” topped the Billboard album chart and boasted another chart-topping Adult Contemporary hit in “Everything.”
Now his current CD, “Crazy Love,” has become another multiplatinum blockbuster, notching another number one hit on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in “Haven’t Met You Yet.” In addition, a deluxe edition, featuring the hit single, “Hollywood,” was released in late October.
He will play Toledo’s Huntington Center on June 7.
So now that Bublé has four hit studio albums in his catalog and has proven himself to be a genuine arena headlining star, is the pressure off? Hardly, although Bublé said it’s a different sort of feeling now.
“I think I’m more confident in what I’m doing, confident in my decision-making process and what my instincts are telling me,” Bublé told a group of five reporters during a telephone call. “But the truth is I have to believe that you’re only as good as your last record, especially in this business now. It’s a volatile business and it’s harder than ever to sell records. I just don’t think you can pat yourself on the back too much. While I appreciate the moment and I smell the roses, each time out I put pressure on myself that it’s got to be better.
“This record took longer than any of the previous ones,” he said. “The next one will probably take even longer. It’s got to be right. And it’s not right until it’s right. So I definitely still put a lot of pressure on myself. I hold myself to a high standard.
Perhaps Bublé is sensitive about the potential ephemeral nature of success because his popularity didn’t come quickly or easily.
In fact, by the late 1990s the native of Burnaby, British Columbia was on the verge of giving up his musical ambitions. At that point, he had released three self-financed albums and had played clubs, dinner theaters and corporate events for nearly a decade with little to show for his efforts.
“I had tried everything and I had met all the people you’re supposed to meet, and it wasn’t happening. People didn’t really want to take a risk,” Bublé said. “They didn’t think this type of music had a chance to have commercial success.”
But a chance meeting in 2000 changed everything. At a corporate gig he had accepted only because he needed the money, he was approached by a man who complimented him on his show. Bublé gave the man his latest self-released CD, thinking nothing of it.
It turned out his newfound fan was Michael McSweeney, the speech writer and assistant to former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. McSweeney played the Mulroney and his wife Bublé’s CD, and before long, the Mulroneys asked Bublé to perform at their daughter’s wedding.
The guest list at the wedding included a family friend, David Foster. That would be David Foster, the producer famous for his work with Céline Dion, Chicago and Whitney Houston. And after seeing Bublé perform, Foster took the singer under his wing, paving the way for a record deal with Reprise, which had Foster produce Bublé’s debut album.
It’s been one success and triumph after another ever since.
What’s ironic about Bublé’s success is that while he is known primarily as an interpreter — not only of “Great American Songbook” material spanning roughly 1930 to 1960, but of more contemporary pop songs as well — Bublé’s greatest success has come with songs he wrote himself.
“Haven’t Met You Yet” is one of two Bublé originals on “Crazy Love” (a CD that otherwise features Bublé’s interpretations of such familiar standards as “Georgia On My Mind,” “Stardust” and “Cry Me A River”); “Home” and “Everything” were also songs he co-wrote.
Bublé said he takes the challenge of writing his own songs very seriously, often spending six months or more before feeling a song passes muster.
But if his songwriting process seems meticulous, Bublé said his approach toward how to perform a cover is even more challenging.
“With the standards, it’s a different process,” he said. “I would say it’s a more difficult process because in a lot of the songs, what I’m really trying to do is obviously interpret them well and bring them to life again, but by doing that, I really need to conceptualize.
“It’s much more difficult to do a standard for me than an original because you can compare the standards to the hundreds of other ways that they’ve been done,” Bublé said. “But with an original, you can’t.”
Bublé said he has been putting his share of work into his live show.
“Obviously, the production is going to be a lot bigger,” he said. “When I spoke to my people that are organizing it and doing all the production, I had said that I wanted it to be a big show and bombastic and grandiose, but at the same time I needed it to be even more intimate than it was before.
“A good entertainer should be able to get up there with a chair and a balloon and entertain people,” Bublé said. “So I don’t want to overdo the production. I want to make sure it’s still a show that has heart and a show that still touches people. I want there to be authenticity.”
Storm science has greatly improved tornado warnings in recent years. But if that’s led anyone into a sense of security, that feeling has taken a beating in recent weeks.
Super Outbreak 2011, on April 25-28, killed more than 300 people in the South and Midwest. Less than a month later, a devastating tornado took more than 130 lives around Joplin, Mo. This is now the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1950, based on an assessment of National Weather Service figures.
This despite warnings of as much as 20 minutes, thanks to improved weather radar installed across the country in the 1990s. Before that, tornado warnings often weren’t issued until a twister was sighted on the ground.
Scientists see a variety of factors that helped make this year’s twisters deadlier — from La Nina to public complacency, from global warming to urban sprawl.
“We thought for the longest time physical science could get us by … that we could design out of disaster,” said meteorology professor Walker Ashley of Northern Illinois University. Now scientists are finding they need to take human nature into account.
What is clear is that certain factors add to the risk of death. The most vulnerable folks are those living in mobile homes and houses without basements. For a variety of reasons, a lot of homes don’t have basements.
Twisters occurring on weekends — like the Joplin tornado — and at night tend to be greater killers because they catch people at home. At night, twisters are harder to see and sleeping people may not hear a warning.
Those less likely to be killed in a storm tend to be more educated and to have a plan in place beforehand.
In Sedalia, Mo., 30-year-old Sean McCabe had the right idea when the tornado struck, heading to the basement. He said the storm shoved him down the final flight of steps. He had scrapes and cuts on his hands, wrists, back and feet. Blood was visible in the house, and much of the roof of the house was gone.
“I saw little debris and then I saw big debris, and I’m like OK, let’s go,” said McCabe.
Having a plan was a lifesaver for Tuscaloosa’s LaRocca Nursing Home in Alabama. As the storm howled, four dozen residents massed in the hallways as trees crashed down and a cloud of dust rained upon them. When the dust settled, the staff realized their drills had paid off. Not one patient was killed, and the worst injury among them was a bruise.
Hundreds have not been so lucky, with more than 500 deaths and counting so far this year, a toll not seen in more than a half-century.
The toll for 2011 is now at least 520 people, exceeding the previous highest recorded death toll in a single year of 519 in 1953. There were deadlier storms before 1950, but those counts were based on estimates and not on precise figures.
The National Weather Service said 58 tornadoes touched down in Alabama on April 27, killing 238 people in that state alone and injuring thousands. Scores died in other states from twisters spawned by the same storm system. Put together, emergency management officials say the twisters left a path of destruction 10 miles wide and 610 miles long, or about as far as a drive from Birmingham to Columbus, Ohio.
Statewide, Alabama officials estimate there was enough debris to stack a football field a mile high with rubble.
Contributing to the massive loss of life is the growth of urban areas, suggested Marshall Shepherd, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia.
“Historically, the central business districts of cities have not been hit that frequently,” he explained. But as you increase the land area covered by homes and businesses, he said, “you’re increasing the size of the dartboard.”
An expanding population does increase exposure to the danger, agreed Ashley, who fears deaths could begin to rise in the future as a result of sprawl and more people living in vulnerable residences such as mobile homes.
If the Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes had each been a few miles to the south, on farmland, little would be heard about them, Ashley said, but when extremely violent tornadoes mingle with urban sprawl “you’re going to have a disaster.”
“I hope this will be an outlier year, very much like Katrina was to hurricanes,” he said in a telephone interview from a field trip to chase tornadoes.
But no one can guarantee that, and weather experts are becoming increasingly concerned about how people respond to tornado warnings.
“A lot of it is complacency,” Ashley said. “The population seems to be becoming desensitized to nature. I don’t know why.”
Studies have shown that 15 to 20 minutes is the most effective amount of warning time, and longer warning times can increase deaths. Weather experts aren’t sure why, but worry that people think that if a twister hasn’t appeared in a certain amount of time, it must have been a false alarm.
Yet a long-track tornado can be on the ground for 30 miles.
“If you have a basement, you don’t need 20 minutes warning, but if you are in a mobile home park you may need more than 20 minutes to find a shelter,” commented Alan W. Black, a University of Georgia doctoral student and co-author with Ashley of a recent study of tornado and wind fatalities.
Jerry Brotzge, a research scientist at the Center for Analysis & Prediction of Storms, University of Oklahoma, said many people who hear warnings will look outside to see if they can see the tornado — “they need some kind of confirmation, they want to see it.”
But the Joplin tornado was at least partly rain-wrapped, meaning that a powerful rainstorm obscured it from some directions and “they wouldn’t have seen it coming.”
“Even when people are sheltered in their homes, if they are not underground they can die,” Brotzge added.
But asking people to evacuate an area is also a difficult decision, he said, “what if you have a traffic jam and the tornado hits that.”
Ashley concluded: “The take-home is, people have to take personal responsibility for their lives.”
Why there have been so many tornado threats this year is harder to say.
Viewing pictures of the tornado aftermath it’s hard to overestimate the power of such storms, and records bear out how strong they can be.
“You see pictures of World War II, the devastation and all that with the bombing. That’s really what it looked like,” said Kerry Sachetta, the principal of a flattened Joplin High School. “I couldn’t even make out the side of the building. It was total devastation in my view. I just couldn’t believe what I saw.”
And that movie image a few years ago was no joke: A cow was transported 10 miles by a twister in Iowa in 1878 and a tornado in Minnesota moved a headstone three miles in 1886.
One Joplin resident said a picture that was sucked off his house’s wall was found in Springfield, 70 miles away. An insurance policy was found more than 40 miles from its original residence in Oklahoma in 1957 and a 210-mile trip was taken by a canceled check in Nebraska in 1915, according to a study several years ago by researchers at the University of Oklahoma and St. Louis University.
Typically, tornadoes spawn in the clash between warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cooler, dry air from the north and west — conditions that mark Tornado Alley in the Midwest and South, the most common breeding grounds for twisters.
Factors in this year’s excess may include La Nina, a periodic cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean which can affect weather worldwide. In a La Nina year there tend to be more tornadoes than average. If that is a factor, the good news is that La Nina is weakening and is expected to end in a month or so.
The meandering jet stream high in the atmosphere that directs the movements of weather also has been in a pattern that encourages warm Gulf air to move in and clash with drier air masses.
While studies of global warming have suggested it could cause more and stronger storms, National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes isn’t ready to blame climate change — at least not yet — saying it’s too soon to link individual events with the ongoing warming.
Tornado researcher Howard B. Bluestein of the University of Oklahoma says his best guess is this unusual outburst of twisters is due to natural variability of the weather.
“Sometimes you get a weather pattern in which the ingredients for a tornado are there over a wide area and persist for a long time. That’s what we’re having this year,” he said.
“If we see this happen next year and the following year and the following year,” then maybe climate change could be to blame, he said.
Whatever the reasons it’s an extraordinary year for tornadoes and the worst may not be over. May is usually the peak month, but June traditionally gets lots of twisters, and they can occur in any month.
“You can never completely breathe easy,” concluded Russell Schneider, director of the government’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
Commenting in Newsweek on the separation of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver after twenty-five years of marriage, novelist and biographer Susan Cheever, wonders if marriage may have a shelf life. She writes, “Once upon a time men and women in their 50s and 60s didn’t have serious marital problems — this was primarily because they were dead.” She goes on to suggest that people living today get a “bonus 30” that is, thirty more years than people got a hundred years ago. Since modern technology and medical science has left us with a series of great discoveries, those thirty extra years are pretty good ones … so good, she suggests, we get a second adolescence. Furthermore, this second adolescence is better than the first since we have all the hard work of planning a career and raising a family behind us.
I suppose on the surface, she makes a lot of sense. That extra thirty years is bound to put more stress and strain on a relationship. The advances in medical science, as well as our culture’s willingness us to let us age gracefully does give us more productive and “playful’ years. I guess one could argue that institutions that were designed to serve a people who lived into their fifties and early sixties are ill equipped to serve them into their eighties and nineties. That is what the Republicans are essentially telling us about Social Security and Medicare … why not tell us the same about the institution of marriage?
For many, marriage is not just another relationship, it is a covenant. Covenants are more like promises than contracts. They not only attempt to describe the boundaries of the relationship, but the character or “soul” of the relationship. In the second act of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, George asks Maggie for a divorce. He has fallen for the younger and shapelier Sabina. Maggie refuses by saying, “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise … that promise made up for all your faults. The promise I gave you made up for mine … And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; it wasn’t our love, that protected them — it was that promise.” That promise is a covenant.
Of course marriage is one of many covenants that shape our lives. There is the covenant between a parent and a child, a citizen and the state, the individual and a “people.” For we religious types, there is a covenant between the creator and the created. The thing about covenants is that they are hard to dissolve. When one fails in a covenant, the default setting is not expulsion from or disintegration of the relationship, is it the work of healing and reconciliation. This work can be hard and unpleasant, but is undertaken because the whole idea behind a covenant is that we belong to something greater than ourselves and that something greater than ourselves belongs to us. In the end, we are more than the sum of our parts.
For those of us who have a covenantal view of relationships, all of this talk about a shelf life of twenty-five to thirty years is bewildering. One of the great joys of marriage is the gift of getting a whole lifetime to explore the wondrous depth and character of another human being. Now we are being told that there is not sufficient depth and character to keep us engaged much more than thirty years. Are we that shallow?
The saving grace in all of this is that Ms. Cheever’s essay was published before all the sordid details of Arnold’s on going affair with his housekeeper was released to the public. It turns out that this separation has less to do with the possible shelf life of the marriage covenant and more to do with Arnold’s personal narcissism and character. Some have even suggested he is a misogynist. Who knows but Arnold and I doubt he knows.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist pastor who works in Bowling Green, Ohio.