I think about the Year in Review issue several times over the course of the year. And around August, I thought that it would be a rather uneventful year—in a good way.
I certainly don’t mean to make light of any loved ones we lost, but there hadn’t been many tragic stories or a plethora of really bad news. There was a primary election in March, and popular neighborhood events such as the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Beverly Breast Cancer Walk had run smoothly, from what I could tell.
In the fall, like the seasons, all that changed.
On Sept. 6, the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools, 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea announced a major proposal for several local schools that called for Kellogg Elementary to merge with Sutherland, Keller Regional Gifted Center to move from its Mt. Greenwood campus to the Kellogg building, and Mt. Greenwood Elementary to expand to the Keller building and become a two-campus school.
Emotions ran high as residents fought the plan. After several heated meetings, O’Shea dropped the part of the plan that called for Kellogg to close. The story certainly kept me busy for several weeks, but there was rarely a dull moment.
And certainly, the police-involved shooting of a black man in Mt. Greenwood on Nov. 5 is a day I will never forget. I watched a family react as they learned that their relative, Joshua Beal, had died, a highly emotional moment, regardless of whether the shooting was justified.
I also received a video from a witness that night that documented the shooting. I approached her to check on some information after she had spoken in front of TV cameras, and she waved me over to speak to me privately. Then, she pulled out her phone and began showing me two videos—one from just before the shooting, another during it. It was, to say the least, a breathtaking moment.
She sent the videos to my cellphone, and the next morning, I woke up bright and early—only because it was Daylight Savings Time—and watched the videos for what had to be the 30th time. One of them briefly pans over to the man who was shot. I recognized that he appeared to be pointing a weapon. I played the videos in slow motion, then called my now-fiance into the room to press the appropriate buttons on my phone to take a screenshot of that image while I held the pause button.
That photo—not mine, necessarily—popped up all over social media that day and become a major talking point of the story—yet another moment I will never forget.
Certainly, the two weeks that followed the shooting were hectic. Emotions boiled over during several protests in Mt. Greenwood, and I heard lots of inappropriate language covering the story. The media caught flack for not being accurate—in fact, I was asked to leave a meeting regarding the shootings after one attendee said the media hadn’t reported accurately. All I know is that we’ve tried to be objective when reporting the story. It is an unfortunate incident, no matter how you look at it.
The media, like every profession, deserves criticism, but let’s remember how important freedom of the press is in a democratic society.
Here are some of my other memorable moments of 2016.
Most impressive moments
Amanda Capuano, the daughter of Dan Capuano, the beloved Chicago firefighter from Mt. Greenwood who died last December, deserves praise for her strong, noble speech when the 10500 block of South Hamlin Avenue was re-named in her father’s honor in August. Still in high school, Amanda showed poise and wisdom beyond her years in saying how she hoped anyone traveling down the street would remember her father—or learn more about him if they didn’t know his story.
I also enjoyed a great moment putting together the “Power of Pink” section, a special section highlighting the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk that The Beverly Review has put together for eight years. When you’re putting together the story that provides an overview of the event, you wonder how you can keep it interesting year after year. Well, after visiting one pre-walk registration event at Little Company of Mary Hospital, that story became a lot more interesting after meeting Megan Robb.
The Beverly resident, who moved here from the North Side, is battling breast cancer, and before I spoke with her, she had just had a lengthy discussion with walk committee member Margie Sweeney, who is a breast cancer survivor. They had never met. And suddenly, they were, essentially, therapists for each other.
As I said in a commentary about the walk in May, when things get tough around here, you don’t have to be alone—on the South Side, it’s always about us.
Another memorable moment
In covering the police-involved shooting in Mt. Greenwood, I talked to a young man who was waiting to get his car on 111th Street after police taped the area off. He said that when the shooting occurred, he had just parked and run into a business to get something for a collage of sorts he was putting together to celebrate the Cubs winning the World Series. He still seemed stunned by what had happened, saying it was “too close.”
We hope incidents like that one never happen in our neighborhood. But one did. Here’s hoping we keep innocent people safe.
Story that received the most feedback
Whenever you ride a bike 60-some miles and write about it, you’re likely to hear about it. In June, I tagged along with Pat’s Pedaling Pack, named in honor of Patrick McNamara, a Beverly boy who died of cancer in 2011, for a fundraiser ride that started at St. Barnabas Elementary School and ended in Long Beach, Ind.
I wrote a commentary about the half-day adventure in the next week’s issue, a few days after I recovered. My hands, rear end and thighs were in pain during the ride—but as I said in my story, complaining about that seemed a little ridiculous when you think of what families go through while battling cancer. I received kind words on Facebook, my voicemail and in person.
I think of that ride any time I’m driving east on Interstate 94. I also think of it every time I see my bike—which I’ve conveniently parked along a wall in the garage in a place where I have to narrowly avoid it every time I pull my car in. Seeing it almost every day serves as a nice reminder of how to approach life: remember what’s important and fight like hell for those things.
Stories for 2017
-What will happen to the schools involved in O’Shea’s school-restructure plan? Will campuses move? Will boundaries change? Will the whole plan be dropped?
-Thrust under a microscope after a police-involved shooting that left a black man dead—which resulted in several heated protests—will the community continue to make strides in improving race relations? How can we keep our community safe?
-Will “The Vineyard,” the first business on 95th Street in Beverly to offer alcohol since Prohibition, be a fruitful venture—and good for the neighborhood?
-Will Chicagoans be taxed even more? Legislators are coming after our sugary beverages and grocery bags. What’s next?
-And, I hate to say it, are the Cubs going to win it all again this year?
Here’s to wishing you all the very best in 2017!