It’s been a terribly sad week, with the Boston Marathon bombing and the horrific explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas. One is definitely a terror attack, the other is not believed to be criminal but they are looking at all options.
In the Marathon bombing, there have been numerous ‘stories’ that have not been panned out since the very beginning. In a world of instant gratification, reporters are quick to break ‘news’ that is later retracted. The NY Post had 12 people dead within hours of the attack. CNN broke that an arrest was imminent, and other networks followed suit. Is it bad reporting, or are there investigative sources that are purposely disseminating false information to advance the probe?
One thing is clear. The Boston Marathon finish line was probably one of the ‘most photographed’ events going on in the world Monday afternoon. Between security cameras, television coverage cameras, cellphone cameras and other media photographers, that area was covered in some way every minute of that race. There have been reports of a number of ‘suspicious’ people in the crowd. If suspicion means carrying a backpack, the investigators have their work cut out for them.
There is no shortage of online sleuths trying to crack the case themselves. The New York Post has plastered a photo on their pages and their online site of two people they claim investigators want to talk to.
I can’t help but keep thinking about that photo of a suspicious looking item near the edge of the curb where many onlookers were gathered near the finish line. That area was decimated by one of the bombs. If that package was indeed the bomb, how did NONE of the police and security officials notice that? Did any of the onlookers find it out of the ordinary or question its existence? If they did, would they, like Richard Jewel, be suspected of putting it there?
So many questions, hopefully we’ll get answers and justice will be done. I’m okay with investigators taking their time and making sure they get the right person or persons responsible. Let this be a wakeup call that we should maintain our vigilance and not be hesitant to speak up if something doesn't look right.
Last week the WILK family said goodbye to Paula Deignan. As the afternoon news anchor I always knew that the stories she reported on would be fair, accurate and delivered in the professional and friendly way she has always had. This is the second time Paula and I parted. Paula was my first radio boss, hiring me part time to run ‘the board’ at WWDL in Scranton back in 1988.
I was a Marywood College (now University) student, with a desire for the bright lights of television. Back then, to get into tv news, you started working in radio.
After months of loading the reel to reels each hour, and putting ABC commercials and weather on carts, Paula let me try out doing the news. When Jean Wilding had the day off, or a week of vacation, I got to do the news. I can still remember leaving the studio after recording the news, and Paula chuckled when she nicely told me I didn’t have to talk so loudly. It’s a common broadcast 101 problem for young deejay/reporter wannabe’s- you don’t need to yell into the mic.
Then one morning I got a call which was really a wake up call. There was a horrible crime that happened in Scranton that was too close to home for me in many ways. A fellow Marywood student was killed after getting off the bus in the East Mountain area of Scranton. Deborah Lucke was shot and killed on a winter afternoon. Many young women on campus were horrified and shocked. I can’t remember exactly who had called me, but WWDL needed to be at a news conference that morning where it was believed that an arrest was being made in the case. I went to the station to get the equipment, and headed for the story.
Back in those days, the late 80’s, almost every radio station had a news department. There were as many radio reporters as tv, if not more. I remember feeling all kinds of conflicting emotions. My first big story, a young woman found dead who I could completely identify with, my heart broken for her family. Would I get it right? Would I forget to hit record on the cassette record? It was overwhelming.
In the end, I got the story. A neighbor, Nicholas Trubia, admitted to killing Lucke and then sexually assaulting her. I remember the flash of cameras, reporters peppering law enforcement with questions. I might not have known exactly what I was doing, but I was able to muddle my way through it. It was the first in many big stories I got to cover.
There’s no more WWDL now, the owner having himself become a big news story that we ended up covering here at WILK. For where I am today, I thank Paula Deignan for giving a young woman at Marywood a chance at broadcasting. Good luck Paula, and I’m not ruling out that our paths will cross once again.
A grandfather was an enigma to me as a young child. It wasn't a part of my vocabulary and certainly not a part of my life. While my kids today have three grandmothers and two grandfathers, I only had one grandparent due to some tragic circumstances in my parents' lives. My mother had lost both her mom and dad when she was only 8. They died of separate health issues within months of each other, leaving her in the custody of her sister who was 12 years older. There could be a book written about that heartbreaking story, rather than a blog. I'll deal with that on another day.
My father was 19 years old working in the kitchen at the Scranton Dry Goods when his father was killed in the mine. The story surrounding his death has always been hazy. There was talk about another miner to blame, not able to operate the equipment properly. It just wasn't something the family talked about. How hard it must have been for my grandmother, and my Dad, the oldest of 5 children who soon became the man of the family. I remember sitting with my beloved grandmother shortly before her death in 1980. We were having tea, and I broached the subject of the grandpa I didn't know. I didn't have the heart to ask her about his death, but she smiled and laughed as she talked about his life. When my grandma laughed, her cherub cheeks would turn bright red. That day when she turned her head, the light reflected the streak of tears on her face. How she must have loved and missed him.
In recent years, I have become much more curious about the grandparents I didn't know. Just the other day I thought of my Grandpa Kman, and how dangerous it was to work in the mines. I have often thought of searching through newspaper archives to read about what happened. All I had heard was that my dad felt compelled to talk to his Dad that morning, and that his father was nervous about working with a miner who he didn't feel was experienced enough.
Later that day the call came in that my grandfather was killed on the job.
Last week, someone out of the blue sent a link to Pa. anthracite coal records on the injuries and fatalities in the mines. I knew that my grandfather Stanley Kman had been killed in 1951, one of the last fatalities from Pa's scarred mining history. I searched and quickly found the curt details. Stanley Kman was a laborer in the mines, having worked there 21 years. He was an American citizen who struggled everyday in a dangerous job to raise his 5 kids. The details confirmed that the fault was laid at a miner. Here is the one line sentence included to describe the incident surrounding his tragic death:
fall roof shoveling coal face chamber
That's it. More than two decades of back breaking, dirty, dangerous work, gone in a flash, described in 6 words. 60 plus years later I thought something more should be said about him.
It was such a pleasure to take part once again in the Pink Elegance Fashion Show in Scranton this past Sunday. The Komen for the Cure in NEPA event always gets a huge turnout. It seemed like only yesterday when I first walked the runway in a fabulous outfit from Nada & Company. I believe my first year was in 2009, about a year and a half past my breast cancer diagnosis.
My hair was really short then. I lost it all due to the chemotherapy and it took some time to grow back in. The story goes that many women end up with curly hair after chemo, but despite my wishes, mine grew back as poker straight as ever.
I skipped a year as a model at the show because I had gone through a grueling 10 hour reconstructive surgery that had me hospitalized for 7 days, and in recovery for weeks. I spent a number of those weeks doing daily hyperbaric treatments. If you’re claustrophobic like me, that takes a little getting used to. You get put into a coffin like capsule where it takes 7 to 10 minutes to change the pressure. The good news is it’s all glass you can see through. The bad news is if you freak out and want out, you have to wait those 7 to 10 minutes for the pressure to normalize or you’ll end up with the bends.
It was a long journey for me to get to where I am physically today. Aside from the quest for good health, breast cancer survivors struggle with the need to look normal again. For some, a breast prosthesis is the right choice. For others, reconstruction is necessary. As someone who had a double mastectomy complicated by radiation, it was pretty challenging. The skin on the radiated side was so damaged that the usual expansion process failed. After months and months of ‘expansion’- where the Dr. slowly fills an implant and stretches the skin, I was horrified one morning to see the skin torn and implant exposed. It had to be removed and I swore I would not go through another surgery.
After almost 6 months I decided to call Dr. Eric Blomain in Scranton. He said that I would need to undergo a dorsal flap procedure. Basically a muscle from the back is moved to the front along with skin from your back that replaces the radiation damaged skin. After weeks of healing, the expansion process begins. It was really difficult, but I am so happy I was able to get through it.
I tell you this because before my health scare, I had no understanding of breast cancer, let alone reconstruction. There are many people who assume that reconstruction is like getting a ‘boob job’. It is really very, very different.
There were many survivors at the Fashion Show, and it’s always good to hear how well they are doing, and see how beautiful they look. Dr. Blomain was there as an escort and told me how happy he is for me, and how great the surgery has turned out. I gave him a hug and thanked him. What else can you do or say for someone who has given you something that allows you to look into a mirror and not always see that terrible thing that happened to you?
Hats off to the wonderful women at Studio RD who unselfishly gave of their time and services making all of us pretty. Thank you to Suburban Casuals for the awesome dress, I loved it so much I bought it.
I’m hearing a lot of friends talking about the upcoming Dirty Girl Mud Run in Scranton. Last year there was quite the controversy concerning how much money the event raised, and how little money went to breast cancer. Now if you want to get all dirty and get some exercise, and are willing to fork over $75 to go at it, have fun. Just don’t expect that you’re really doing very much in helping fight this awful disease. That’s because this capitalistic venture (nothing wrong with that) is only giving 2.5% of the money raised to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a mere $1.88.
Last year, there were individuals and teams that participated in honor of survivors, and those that died from breast cancer. Volunteers gave time in helping to set up the event, only to find out that it really was to essentially make money for the organizers, with a crumb thrown to cancer funding. They still have the volunteer link up on the site. Yes, you too can set up a for-profit venture and not get paid a dime. Wow. It’s really important to be discerning about companies, products, and events that shroud themselves in pink and say they are raising money for breast cancer. The emotional tug for people is so strong and the betrayal can leave a bad taste in the mouth that lingers for a long time.
If I really want to be picky, I can point out that alcohol is implicated as a contributor to cancer. Why is it being served at the Dirty Girl Run? Why is it being served at an athletic event that claims to help fight against breast cancer. Oh right, to make money. By the way, only the small percentage of the registration fee goes to the NBCF, not the proceeds on the adult beverages and unhealthy food they sell.
I realize that many of you may enjoy the camaraderie, the challenge, the bonding that the Mud Run brings. Just make sure you’re doing it with your eyes wide open. In my opinion, the best way to honor someone you lost to breast cancer is to give directly to the fight against it.
There was a time when I was obsessed with reading about serial killers. I always wanted to know what makes them tick. When something horrible happens, we’d like to think that it is explainable. Unfortunately, when it comes to psychopaths, it’s hard to get an answer.
From the looks of it, former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner was a psychopath. He wasn’t a serial killer; he’s what’s known as a spree killer. Psychopath and sociopath are sometimes intertwined and there’s disagreement as to what differentiates the two. Having read Dorner’s so called manifesto, I find him to be the classical case of psychopathy. Mary Ellen O’Toole was an FBI profiler who specialized in this. She talked about “injustice collectors”. These are people who hold on to things that happened to them that they believe to be unjust. They usually make a mountain out of a mole hill. Dorner’s manifesto was filled with these. He also thought of himself in a grandiose fashion. He lashed out at the lack of empathy from the leader of the NRA for the school kids in Newtown, while showing no empathy for the innocent couple he killed because the woman was the daughter of a man he felt ‘wronged him’.
As disturbing as Dorner is, I find it incredibly unbelievable that there are people who sympathize with him. Psychopaths are imitators. They don’t feel for anyone. They mimic emotions. They are charming; they tell you what you want to hear. Christopher Dorner was not a nice, normal guy who went nuts after something happened to him. He was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. If it wasn’t the LAPD, something else would have triggered his murderous rage.
I live in a rural school district. Susquehanna County is home to probably more livestock than people. Our students come from decent, hardworking families. You know that farmer ad everyone raved about during the Superbowl? That’s the Mountain View School District.
We don’t have a lot of money. Sadly, many of our kids live below the poverty line. Our grade point averages don’t stack up very well across the state. In fact, I believe we are near the bottom.
I’m not going to say we don’t have drugs, but we don’t have a lot of the drug and violence problems you see in more populated areas. We don’t have football, and some sports we barely field a team.
I tell you all of this because it goes to show just how amazing it was for our Mountain View High School Eagles soccer team to win the State Championship. The final two playoff games were against two private schools from wealthy areas. Our boys won. They won because of their skill, and the extraordinary coaching of Roger Thomas.
You may have read the story in the paper last fall, about how Coach Thomas was suspended after a high scoring game against Old Forge. Perhaps when you saw it, your first reaction was that he deserved it. Like every story, you need to get the full picture before you make a decision. I don’t claim to have the answer, or evidence that changes your mind. I still struggle with whether I would have allowed the score to get that high. However, I’ve never coached a team.
As I learned more about the details behind the situation, I’ve been disturbed by a few facts. The soccer team was placed in a division where it was obvious they would be overwhelming their opponents. There were concerns that the players would not get the necessary competition to hone their skills for future playoff games. There were concerns that opposing teams who could not play up to the level might be overly aggressive and injure our players. That has happened in the recent past. Those concerns fell on deaf ears.
During the entire season, the Eagles outscored their opponents 104-4. In the final two games to the State Championship they won each by only 1. I’d say the evidence shows that the team and the school was right to argue for a different division.
Let’s fast forward to the game against Old Forge. As reported by Coach Roger Thomas, the opposing coach stated at the beginning of the game that his team was playing for fun. Coach Thomas had upcoming playoffs to consider and wanted to make sure the team was prepared. Here’s where you and I and others can argue about whether he should have allowed the score to get to 24-1.
What I have a real problem with is how this situation was handled. At the game, the School Board President took it upon himself to walk over to the Principal to tell the coach to stop the scoring. If you don’t know, a school board member has no power outside of the board room. In fact, they are supposed to stay out of issues that could come before them, so they are as unbiased as possible. As relayed in the board meeting last night, the Principal then goes to the coach and tells him there will be repercussions if he doesn’t stop. You may wonder why a school board member would get involved. This one has a player on the team, a player who is not a starter.
The Superintendent later decides to implement a suspension against Coach Thomas. The board is only notified of her decision after the fact. Remember, she answers to the board, a board who’s President was the one who instigated the issue.
We are now hearing that the League may be taking action of its own. A large group of parents and taxpayers attended the School Board meeting Monday night. They believe that the Board should be supporting Coach Roger Thomas and want reassurance that they are, and that they will have him on again as coach for the coming season. The Board President actually said he was not in favor of rehiring the coach. Imagine that, a man who takes your school’s team to the State Championship, tossed aside due to petty mean-spiritedness.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe education is the top priority of a school board. That is why this is so perplexing to me. Roger Thomas is an excellent teacher, and he inspires the kids in his class and on his team. His soccer team is ranked #5 in the nation. Some of his players will get scholarships they sorely need to further their education. At a time when most schools, and school boards, would be bursting with pride, the Mountain View board is doing everything it can to throw the team and the coach under the school bus. It’s a real shame.
I'm pretty surprised to find the bulldog muscling it's way into the top 5 breeds of dogs, according to the American Kennel Club. When we got our bulldog, Prudence, back in the late 70's, I got a lot of flak from my friends. Prudie was a fully grown, sweet beauty when she arrived in our home. Of course we thought she was beautiful, but many people didn't. Sure, they're adorable as little pups, but the jutting jaw, bulging eyes and snoring wasn't attractive to all. The AKC now says the bulldog has moved to #5, displacing the Yorkie.
To be honest, I always felt bad for the bulldog. Our Prudence was in shape, but their barrel chests and small legs really take a toll on their bodies. It was quite an effort for her to hop up on the couch. Many a time I'd have to grab her from the butt and pull her up. Getting down could be as hard as getting up. She'd have an awful time breathing, and could be prone to hip problems. Then there is hygiene to contend with. Like Pavlov's bell, wherever I was in the house, if I heard her slurping at the water dish, I'd run to grab a towel to wipe her clean. If you didn't get there in time, there would be a trail of slobber.
Prudie was a great dog, but didn't live as long as we had hoped. A few years later we noticed a large lump on her shoulder. The vet confirmed our worst fear, it was cancer. We kept her as long as we could, for as long as she was comfortable. One morning I was home from school and the poor girl was not doing so well. I called my mom and we made the dreaded trip to end her pain. The average lifespan for a bulldog is about 6 1/2 years.
10 years ago the bulldog was around #20. Now they are? a rising breed. Because they don't require a lot of exercise, they are extremely popular with apartment dwellers, and are the most popular breed in the Big Apple.
My mom just got out of the hospital after having her knee replaced. I took her there last week to have the procedure done. She says I am "her person". "Your person" is the person in your life who you can call on to do the tough stuff. Someone you trust to know what to remind the doctors or nurses before treatment, to speak for you when you're under anaesthesia, to know who to call if something goes wrong, what to do, how to deal with an emergency.
You may have a few people who fit that criteria- call it 'your people'. When you're in a hospital, you definitely need them. Being there recently, reminded me of the myriad of issuesI dealt with in my multiple surgeries and treatments. The worst issue was the medications. I feel like a druggie when I would go through the pre-op discussions telling them exactly what I needed. Zofran is a must for surgery. Morphine or Vicodin are my top pain meds, forget the Percocet or Demerol. Give me Xanax in the evening for sleep. Of course, after I was in my room, I would have to have that discussion over and over again. It was maddening how often the lines of communication got criss-crossed.
The biggest lesson I learned about surgery was staying ahead of the pain. It seems as though they don't want to give you pain meds anymore on a schedule. They wait until you ask for it. When you're recuperating it's tough to keep track of the meds, but you have to. I would write down when I took a pill and then ask for it when I could safely take it again. I learned that after a few experiences where I nodded off, only to awake to terrible pain and begging for relief.
Thank God for the great nurses who make you feel better during a bad situation. I had one real funny lady answer my call in the middle of the night at Geisinger in Danville back in 2007. I was miserable and in pain after my mastectomy, and having a hard time sleeping. She brought me an Ambien and a Xanax and told me to choose one of them. I picked the Xanax. After I took it, she smiled and said "If that doesn't work, I'll have to bring out the rubber mallot." I remember laughing out loud and soon fell asleep with a smile on my face.