When I was growing up in Louisville, KY, I would flip through The Courier-Journal and give only passing attention to the crime and mayhem stories.
Then, after graduating from college, I landed a job as a sports writer at a northern Kentucky newspaper. The editor had hired me after having me to his home for dinner, and the expectation was I would go into news after the sports editor returned from a medical leave of absence.
When I showed up for work that first morning, I was sitting at my desk, reading the paper, when the editor flew out of his glass-enclosed office and, with long, sharp strideseps, came directly to my desk. He tossed his copy of the paper on the desk and pointed to a short story about an accident in the locks of the Ohio River. A man’s boat had slammed violently against the walls of the locks, and the man had been killed.
“Get ahold of this guy!” the editor said in a half yell. “Find out everything you can about him. Get a picture and get the story!”
With that, he turned on his heel and went quickly back to his office.
I sat there stunned. My first thought was the curious phrasing the editor had used — “Get ahold of this guy.” My second thought was, “Oh, shit, what have I gotten myself into.”
I thought about how, if I’d been home in Louisville, I would have glanced at a story like that, reflected briefly on what a shame it was, and then casually turned the page. But sitting there at that desk in Covington, KY, I was being ordered to inject myself into the tragedy.
Within a few minutes, I was able to reach the man’s wife on the phone, and she agreed to let me come out to the house. When I got there, she was prostrate on a bed, weeping, in complete anguish. I apologized all over myself, and I will never forget how gracious she was, pulling herself together to give me the information I needed, and even — as we bid goodbye — addressing me by my first name. As I muttered a final apology, she said, “It’s okay, Jim.”
Since that day, I have had a totally different attitude about crime and mayhem. When reading stories about innocent victims losing their lives or being badly injured, I often try to put myself into their shoes at the time of the incident and think what they might have been thinking and feeling.
I try to put myself in the place of the victims’ loved ones — like the widow prostrate on the bed — and think about their anguish…I also think, every time, that it could have been me; could have been a family member; and how lucky I am (up to the present) it wasn’t me or a member of my family.
…We see and hear about an unbelievable amount of mayhem in our metropolitan area, and the normal tendency is to read it (or listen and watch) and move on. Turn the page.
But some of these cases cry out for our fixed attention, our empathy, even our prayers…if we’re so inclined.
Consider one such case…
:: The I-70 crash in Blue Springs that left two children dead, their father paralyzed and their mother with a life that has been scrambled and smashed.
Here’s what the Beaird family of Warrenton, MO, looked like before the Labor Day Weekend.
The two kids on either side of Mickey were 13-year-old son Gavin (left) and 7-year-old daughter Chloe. They’re both dead. David, the father and husband, is reportedly paralyzed from the chest down. Wife and mother Jennifer was also injured.
There’s another photo that complements this picture, and it isn’t a pretty one…
That’s 60-year-old James Green of Odessa, who — while drunk and playing with his cellphone — plowed his Cadillac Escalade into the rear of the Beairds’ Hyundai Elantra. The lives of Green and the Beairds intersected at 6:03 p.m. Labor Day on eastbound I-70 near Adams Dairy Parkway.
Here’s what a Cadillac Escalade looks like…
Green is now charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of assault and driving while intoxicated.
He was driving with a suspended driver’s license and had prior convictions for driving while intoxicated, according to court records. He told investigators he had drunk three beers about an hour before the wreck.
At the crime scene, Green complained of left-leg and chest pain.
…Now, here’s what you can say in a blog that you can’t say in the daily newspaper:
Green is a turd who didn’t have a life worth living, and in moments he killed two innocent children and dramatically and forever changed the lives of the children’s parents.
I’m glad Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged Green with two counts of murder, but I doubt she can make it stick. My understanding is that with any count of murder — capital, first-degree or second-degree — you have to prove intent to take a life.
Sadly, this turd Green may well end up being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. I have no idea how much time he’ll get, but chances are he’ll walk out of prison some day.
…The rest of us weren’t there, in cars on I-70, as James Green barreled eastbound on I-70, not paying a lick of attention to the traffic stopped or slowed before him. But put yourself in David Beaird’s seat that Labor Day afternoon.
I’m going to assume he was driving, probably taking the family back to Warrenton. From the circumstances, it sounds like traffic was either stopped or creeping along. Maybe David and the other family members didn’t know what hit them. Maybe — more likely — he glanced into the rearview mirror and saw a big SUV hurtling toward their Hyundai. The SUV wasn’t slowing down, and Beaird had nowhere to go. There’s was no escape. Death, mayhem and paralysis were on the way.
A “Go Fund Me” campaign has been launched to help David and Jennifer with funeral and medical expenses. Here’s the link.