Friday, December 19, 2008

Stories We Like From Y2008

I notice several "B Team" anchors are filling in on the big cable channels. Members of Congress have all gone home for the holidays and a lot of the Big Foot Anchors have taken the opportuniuty to spend some time with their families. News stories start to thin out this time of year and it reminded me to look through a pile of articles I'd clipped from 2008 that I thought were worth remembering. Come along with me as we walk into the land of three small news stories, each memorable in its own way.
(The lightning photo is by Orlando's incredible David O. Stillings, known as "The Lightning Stalker")
The Story of Thunderman
This year I stumbled across the story of Tad Staples, a story uncovered by Jeff Klinkenberg of the St. Petersburg, Florida Times. Tad Staples loves the summers in Florida because he loves the sound of thunder, and Central Florida, you may have heard, is the lightning capitol of the world.

Staples has microphones and recorders everywhere in his house and knows just about all there is to know about the sound of thunder.

"I have a theory about thunder," he says in Klinkeberg's article: "You can tell how powerful a storm is going to be by its lowest audible frequency. I would love to work with someone about this. We could warn people about the storm by the sounds of thunder. I can't get scientists interested."

Tad Staples is blind. What others can tell by looking at a radar screen, he has learned to tell by listening.

"My blindness was a blessing. It allowed me to devlop my other talents. I listen very well."

When was the last time anyone really listened to you?

Tad Staples sees a great deal that the rest of us miss.

A Dog That was Residue Became Rezadu
Narcotics Deputy J.D. Maney in Lakeland, Florida had a problem. His previous canine partner, a real dog, was forced into early retirement. Bad hips or something like that. A new dog, trained and ready to go would cost the department $5000 and the Polk County Sheriff's Office decided it just couldn't afford the price.

So Maney decided to see if he could find a dog at the pound who might come up to snuff, so to speak. He made many trips to the county animal shelter and reviewed, he said "many, many, dogs." Then, one day, he met a young black Labrador retriever who was friendly, playful, and curious. Maney decided to give the dog, whom he named Rezadu, a try.

Beginning in March 2008, the new partners trained together for 12 weeks. Deputy Maney noticed that Rezadu seemed to be afraid of being inside a car, so he spent hours playing with the dog inside the county's fleet of patrol vehicles. "There were probably people driving by thinking I was crazy, jumping around on the seats," says Maney. "But I didn't care."

On August 5, Deputy J.D. Maney took Rezadu for his big test: certification with Hillsborough County, Florida, Cpl. Terry Dixon, a master trainer for the North American Police Dog Association. Reporter Jeremy Maready, who uncovered this story writes: "Rezadu passed with flying colors."

Rezadu had been a pound dog. But he is now, officially, a genuine Deputy (Dawg).

A Wartime Love Story
This is a true story that reads like a movie script, in fact a movie script that somewhat resembles the recent Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but with a better ending.

Herman Rosenblat was a child in a Nazi concentration camp in Schlieben, Germany during World War II. One day, a little girl came down the road outside the camp carrying a basket of apples. She saw the little boy and stopped. Her family was Jewish too, but they were hiding in the nearby town posing as Christians. She threw an apple over the fence to Herman and ran away. He ran away too and shared the apple with his family.

Each returned the following day and for several months the routine continued. They never spoke: each afraid the guards would spot them. When Herman Rosenblat learned he would be moved, this time to Theresienstadt, in what is now the Czech Republic, he finally spoke to the girl and told her he wouldn't be able to return.

"I won't see you anymore," she said.

"Right, right. Don't come around anymore," he answered.

It wasn't long after that that the war was over and the concentration camp was liberated. The girl, whose name was Roma, managed to get to Israel. Herman went to London and later moved on to America. One night a friend called and urged him to go out on a blind date with a young lady he'd met. Herman was reluctant, but was finally persuaded.

Associated Press reporter Matt Sedensky writes: "It went well enough. She was Polish and easygoing. Eventually talk turned to their wartime experiences. Rosenblat recited the litany of camps he had been in, and the young lady's ears perked up. She had been in Schlieben, too, hiding from the Nazis. She spoke of a boy she would visit, of the apples she would bring. And then, the words that would change their lives forever:

'That was me,' he said.'"

In 2008, the Rosenblats celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in North Miami Beach. In this one particular case, the woman gave the man the apple and it all worked out just fine.

Reporters Jeremy Maready, Matt Sedensky, and Jeff Klinkenberg originally wrote and reported these stories.

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