Friday, May 04, 2012

“Roundtable: A New Beginning”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a busy morning at the McDonald’s on Water Street, in Chardon.

The Geauga Writers’ Roundtable was about to meet. Chairperson Carrie Hamglaze busied herself with membership documents and recent copies of her ‘Chardon News’ column. Meanwhile, the rest of us buzzed with idle chatter and gossip. Notebooks were piled carelessly with breakfast items, and coffee. I was grateful to enjoy a Sausage McGriddle while jotting down details of an upcoming business venture.

Suddenly, the gathering came to order.

“I would like to open this session of the roundtable!” Carrie shouted over the din.

Martha Ann Reale of the Newbury Siren-Monitor gestured with her Mocha Latte. “I have missed our meetings. Welcome back!”

“I’ll second that!” agreed Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of the Burton Daily Bugle.

“Let’s begin with a review of recent stories,” Carrie continued, while sipping Irish tea. “What have you been writing about in your newspapers?”

I cleared my throat. “It seems likely that all of us have addressed the shootings at Chardon High School from our own unique perspectives. Let me say that I have been particularly proud of the coverage in our Geauga County Maple Leaf.”

Carrie nodded with a smile. “Rod is correct. We’ve all written about that tragedy. I am pleased with how we were able to cover such a difficult story with care and attention to detail.”

Mack Prindl of the Parkman Register echoed their sentiments. “It became a national story, almost overnight.”

I put down my coffee. “Or one could even say, an international story. A friend who works as a pharmacist for Giant Eagle said that she saw coverage of the shootings on the BBC from England.”

“I am heartened with how everyone reacted,” Carrie said, exuding authority. “Our students, teachers, parents, safety officers, public officials… our citizens. Everyone came together in a splendid way.”

Martha Ann had tears in her eyes. “Yes they did.”

Carrie gestured with authority. “So, what else did we learn from this, going forward?”

Ezekiel took a deep breath. “I was just worried about my grandkids. They mean more to me than anything.”

Martha Ann bowed her head. “Amen!”

Everyone at the table agreed.

I leaned back in the chair. “Of primary concern was Steven, my nephew who is a student at CHS. Also of interest to me was the real-time data stream as that day unfolded. I’ve read about the phenomenon, but never experienced it, firsthand. Through Twitter and Facebook on my mobile phone, I kept in touch with other journalists who were busy with the story, as it was unfolding.”

Ezekiel shook his head like a bull. “I still don’t use that stuff.”

“Zeke, you need to join the modern world,” Mack laughed out loud.

“Some of the students involved were able to communicate with their parents, as everything was happening,” Martha Ann said. “That lifeline kept us all in touch.”

“That’s right,” I remembered. “One of the parents was on WTAM that morning, with Bill Wills. Before most of us even thew what was happening. She had gotten text messages from her son, who was in the school cafeteria.”

Carrie nodded. “From that day forward, everything was different. We’ve all got to find a way to begin, again…”

Once more, the group joined in agreement.

“Very good, then,” our host said. “So… what else have you been writing about in the past few weeks?”

Martha Ann pointed her finger in the air. “My latest feature is about upcoming spring events in the county. So much to do, and everything is affordable!”

I looked through my notes. “On deck is an article about Jake Kouwe and the Chardon Polka Band. After a bad traffic accident several months ago, he has recovered and is back on stage with his fellow performers.”

Ezekiel sorted through a stack of papers. “I put together a planting guide for those getting ready to enjoy warmer days outside in the garden.”

Mack Prindl huffed to himself. “Well, I wrote a review of the Pittsburgh Steelers draft. Something people really want to read!”

Carrie was visibly flabbergasted.

“You have just ruined the intellectual tone of our discussion,” she complained.

“Come on Pringle,” Martha Ann chirped. “We are supposed to be providing local journalism here. Not cheerleading for an out-of-state pro franchise.”

“That’s P-R-I-N-D-L,” Mack snorted.

Ezekiel pounded the table with his fist. “Can’t you give the Steelers thing a rest? Even for one day?”

“Never!” Mack yelped defiantly. “I know what my readers want!”

“Really?” Martha Ann squawked. “What’s next, a recipe series using Iron City Beer?”

Carrie nearly spilled her Irish tea. “Okay, we need to stay focused here!”

Mack refused to submit. “Six Superbowl rings!”

Ezekiel closed his eyes. “So help me God, I’m gonna slap you out of your chair, Pringle!”

A minor scuffle ensued. Notepads and pens flew around the table.

I tried to steer the conversation back to sanity. “You know, we are lucky to live in a county where people have such a strong identity and sense of purpose. As Chief of Police Tim McKenna said after the events at CHS, ‘Chardon will take care of Chardon.’ That speaks well to the character of people in Geauga.”

The group went silent.

Carrie raised her Irish tea in a salute. “I have to agree.”

Martha Ann concurred. “So true!”

Ezekiel raised his fist, silently.

“One heartbeat!” he shouted.

I lifted my coffee. “Indeed! As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home!’”

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