It’s been 20 years this coming Saturday since a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the militant Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States of America happened on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. On that day, those of us old enough to remember, had horrific, sad memories burned into our souls. This week’s “Scrapbook” on pages 4 and 5 of the print edition of the Decatur Tribune is a focus on the reaction to 9/11 in Decatur, where people gathered in Central Park to join together in prayer and allegiance to our nation in the aftermath of the attack on the United States. It seems like only yesterday that I was in the park shooting photos and feeling the spirit of unity that was on display in the resolve of area residents.
There will be a special “Memorial Of 9/11” for the 20th anniversary of the attack at the Decatur 9/11 Memorial in Nelson Park on September 11, 2021, beginning at 5:30 p.m. There’s more details about that event on page 14 of this week’s print and online editions.
• THERE ARE two national tragedies that are forever burned into my memory bank — the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on our nation. I can tell you exactly what I was doing when I received the tragic news of both earth-shaking events. I was home sick with the flu and resting on the couch in the living room when veteran CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite broke into the regular programming and announced that shots had been fired into President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas and President Kennedy had been shot.
The news was stunning and even more stunning was Cronkite’s announcement not that long after his first news break that President Kennedy had passed away. I could not take my eyes off of the old black and white television we had as events following President Kennedy’s assassination continued to unfold— including the fatal shooting of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and President Kennedy’s funeral. Area television stations went off the air after the 10:00 news for several nights in tribute to the fallen president.
• ON THE morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was in my office at the Tribune, when I glanced up at the muted television and saw on a live camera shot, smoke coming from one of the World Trade Center towers. I quickly turned up the volume and the news anchor was saying that a plane had hit the tower in what was believed to be an accident. He no sooner got the words out of his mouth when another plane hit the other tower and, from that moment on, it was known the planes hitting the towers were not “accidents” but a deliberate attack! Then the news reports started coming in from our news services and, in many ways, television coverage was much like the Kennedy assassination but much more wide-scale in terms of destruction and loss of life of so many people. As long as I live, I will never forget the feeling of vulnerability I had from watching that attack and the aftermath of that attack on our nation on Sept. 11, 2001 — including the two towers being reduced to rubble! I’m sure many of you reading this column today can remember exactly what you were doing 20 years ago when you heard or saw the news about the 9/11 attack. The Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 attack — major national tragedies permanently lodged in my mind.
• SUICIDE “speeder of the week” designation has to go to a young guy riding his motorcycle at an extremely high rate of speed on North Main Street early one evening last week. I didn’t have a radar gun but he had to be going 70 mph when he zipped by the cars in my lane like we were sitting still! He was not wearing a helmet and he was weaving in and out of traffic, using all of the lanes and passing all of the cars. Obviously, as fast as he was going, one little mistake by another driver in a passenger car, such as unexpectedly pulling out into an adjoining lane in front of the motorcyclist, and he would have been a dead motorcyclist! I have never seen drivers (and riders) be so reckless on Decatur streets like I’ve seen the past several months. Be sure and pause a few seconds after the traffic signal changes to green for you, because too many drivers are blasting through intersections several seconds after their traffic light turns red!
I about got nailed at the intersection of East Main and Franklin Street the other night by a “drive-through red light” driver. Had I not paused after my traffic light turned green, he would have plowerd right into the side of my car! Stay alert. With COVD-19, gun violence and crazy drivers lurking, preserving life and limb is a real challenge.
• NEW COUNCILMAN — Last week the Decatur City Council selected Dennis R. Cooper to fill the council seat left vacant by the resignation of Rodney Walker. Cooper was sworn into office at the beginning of Tuesday evening’s council meeting. Cooper retired from the Illinois De-partment of Corrections after 32 years of working his way from entry level positions to Chief of Staff/Chief of Community Outreach and Special Assistant to the Director. He previously worked as Deputy Sheriff (Court Security Officer) Kane County Sheriff Department-Batavia, Illinois and with Surgical Specialists of Central Illinois, S.C. He currently works part time at Archer Daniels Midland Company, (ADM), Decatur, IL. as a Sensory Specialist and has been employed there since July 2012.
Cooper was born and raised in Decatur and attended Oakland Grade School, Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, and Stephen Decatur High School. He attended Lake Land Community College, earning an Associate’s Degree in General Studies, May 1972; and an Associate’s Degree in Science in 1972. He also attended Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois 1972-1974; Governor State University, University Park, Illinois in 1990 and Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois in 1992. Cooper is very active in the community and has been a lifetime member of the Church of the Living God, Pillar Ground of Truth, Temple #2, Decatur, Illinois. He serves as the Director of Finance, holds a National position as National Treasurer, Summit Team Member, member of the local Deacon’s Board, works with the Youth Training Union Department and Drama Ministry. He is a member of the Concerned Community Citizen’s Group and a past member of the Caring Black Men Group. He is a past president of the Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice and a Member of American Correctional Association. Cooper says he is looking forward to bringing a wealth of experience and ideas to help further growth in this community.
Cooper and his wife, Virginia, have been married 15 years (October) and have a blended family of five children — Michele, Alicia, Cornel, Candace and Shawnn, and nine grandchildren. Best wishes to Dennis R. Cooper in his new role as a member of the Decatur City Council.
• THANKS to all of you who have come to the Decatur Tribune offices since Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mask mandate for wearing your mask at the Trib. The mandate indicates that, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, you should wear a mask indoors where other people are gathered, We do have a sign on the entrance door of the Trib which states that masks are required for entry and everyone has complied without complaining about it. That’s appreciated.
• THERE seems to be a mixed reaction in following the “mask mandate” in the few places that I have gone to either pick up food or some necessary business item the past few weeks. There is still a lot of maskless people (mostly customers) who are apparently not making any effort to protect themselves, or anyone else, from getting or transmitting the COVID-19 virus. I learned something new (even at my age) from some of the people I’ve seen wearing masks — apparently the main source of infection is the chin because that’s what more than a few area residents are covering with their mask! Others have their chin and mouth covered but their nose (the chief source of inhaling or exhaling infection) is uncovered. I sometimes look to see if these people have both legs in one leg of the pants they are wearing, since, it seems to me that it would be more difficult to wear a pair of pants properly than wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth properly.
• LAST WEEK, and so far this week, we’ve not seen encouraging reports from the Macon County Health Department, as the number of COVID-19 infections in our county increases dramatically. Several people have also passed away from COVID-19, including one woman in her 40s. We can beat this virus, and its variants, through a united effort — but that seems a distant achievement. I never thought I would ever see this nation so divided in overcoming a common enemy — and so many people are getting very sick and even dying because of political rhetoric. conspiracy theories and so many people throwing caution to the wind because they don’t want to be inconvenienced. Anyone who is terrified to get the vaccine shot can, at the very least, wear a mask properly and practice simple anti-virus precautions.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider portion of his show. I always enjoy our discussions about what’s happening in our community and why.