Innocence lost

December 14, 2012

Rick Kogan

If you have been listening to the last hour on this radio station or have been tied to the news in any other way, you know why I feel sick and, with an eight year old daughter named Fiona, why I feel scared.

And so I retreat for a moment to an innocent time and I am a child and my world is free of death and terror. My friend`s father, Mr. Paraskevas, works at the Sheraton as a doorman and that allows us—a pack of kids from old town—the chance to use the hotel`s swimming pool.

This remains among my greatest memories…so innocent, taking the bus downtown, trunks and towels tucked under our arms; riding the elevators up to the pool room, embellished by a fountain and a massive dugout canoe; swimming and diving until we were too tired to swim anymore; spending our returned-bottles money on raisin toast and cokes at the coffee shop.

The 42-story hotel, now the Intercontinental, was built in 1929 as the Medinah Athletic Club. It once housed a miniature golf course, gymnasium, bowling alley, shooting range and boxing arena, but by the time it was taken over by Sheraton in 1947, the pool was all that remained of the athletic amenities. But it is a sight to see, as are other corners of the hotel. Perhaps that was what a man named Nicholas Wieme was exploring Wednesday night after he and a pal had dinner downstairs.

As most of you know, this trip ended tragically. Wieme slipped and fell into the building’s smokestack and the heroic efforts of firefighters could not save his life and in the wake of his death we all learned that this young man was from a small town in Minnesota and that he was an aspiring comedian and actor…and that he was 23.

And then…I know I cannot escape death.

In Connecticut this morning, 26 people, 20 of them children, dead and we may never know why.

But we must be reminded of this, from John Donne:

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
Each man's (child’s) death diminishes me,
for i am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.