Train Tragedy and the Twitter Cruelty That Followed

On Monday night, December 17, two Chicago Police officers were struck and killed by a train while responding to a call of shots fired in the area around 103rd Street and Dauphin Avenue.  The officers were struck near 103rd and Cottage Grove.

According to the ABC7 News, “One of the officer’s bodycam videos shows the officers exit their patrol car, go up a hill to the Metra tracks at 103rd and Cottage Grove Avenue and talk about where the offender could have gone.”

“In the distance, the officers can see a train approaching heading north making noise. Police said it possibly masked the sound of another high-speed, Indiana-bound South Shore Line train full of commuters that was only feet behind them. The bodycam video then fades to black. Police said it happened fast and the officers died instantly.”  https://abc7chicago.com/body-camera-video-recovered-after-2-cpd-officers-fatally-struck-by-train/4921383/

Both officers were relatively new to the force.  Both were fathers and husbands.  Thirty-one year old, Conrad Gary had been a Chicago Police officer for eighteen months and leaves behind a wife and a six-month-old daughter.  Thirty-seven year old Eduardo Marmolejo, who’d been on the Department for two and half years, leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Almost immediately, an outpouring of condolences and support flooded out from around the city and state.  Mayor Rham Emanuel (D) stated during a press conference, “This knocks you back on your heels… There are no words to express our grief, our sense of loss.”  https://abc7chicago.com/2-chicago-police-officers-hit-killed-by-train-while-chasing-suspected-gunman/4920789/

Outgoing Governor Bruce Rauner (R) said in a tweet, “Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and the entire @Chicago_PoliceDepartment.“

Similar sentiments came in from around the country.

flowers from the NY Yankees

Flower arrangements sent to each of the families from the NY Yankees

It seems that in these days of political vitriol and partisan divisiveness, there are at least a few fundamental things on which people across divides can agree.  That this was a tragic loss of life to be mourned is one of those fundamental things, or so, one would think.  That you don’t make cruel jokes as little children’s hearts are breaking and they face a scary and uncertain future, having had a Dad that afternoon, and then with sudden horror to find out he wasn’t coming home from work tonight.  He was never coming home from work, ever, lost in a split second in a tragic and violent accident. Their young world forever changed, a hole cut into young souls that can and will never be mended.  You don’t mock those deaths.  You don’t add your own little sprinkle of cruelty to those young broken hearts who are learning much too young just how cruel life can be.

But, of course, it’s not.  Even this. Even two men, one white, one Latino, protecting a community from a man firing a gun, are accidentally killed by a train, one week before Christmas, each with little ones at home, is not universally considered tragic.  Sadly even this.

The officers were struck and killed around 6:20-6:30 Monday evening.  Approximately an hour and a half later, Carl Nyberg, a politically active volunteer in several Aldermanic campaigns and a committee person for the progressive advocacy group Northside Democracy for America (DFA), tweeted the following at 7:49pm:  “Two people too stupid to avoid getting hit by a train were given firearms & the authority to kill people by the Chicago Police Department.”

carl nyberg tweet

He posted this in response to a news article by Block Club Chicago about the officers’ deaths.

In the days since this tragedy occurred, journalists, the Mayor, the Governor, the Superintendent of Police, all used to seeing people at their worst, used to tragedy, used to seeing the unthinkable, were all audibly and visually moved to tears and near tears while somewhere in Albany Park, bathed in the icy blue glow of a computer screen sat a little man, his soul twisted and dark and disfigured by hate, fighting windmills and patting himself on the back for what he must see as his heroic crusade.

But why?  What would drive someone to so coldly and callously disseminate such a thing to the world?  He had no personal history with either man.  Didn’t know them at all.  No past slights.  No past arguments or fights.  No encounter whatsoever.  And still he felt the need to mock their deaths the way a Sox fan might gloat about beating the Tigers.

He wasn’t standing up against injustice.  He wasn’t railing against abuse of power.  He was simply being mean for the sake of being mean.

And he wasn’t being mean to these two officers.  They’re gone.  They’ve passed beyond the reach of petty meanness.  So Mr. Nyberg’s post has zero impact on them.  Who isn’t beyond that reach of cruelty, are the ones those men left behind.  Mr. Nyberg was being intentionally mean and cruel to the widows and daughters and parents who just an hour and a half prior lost their loved one, and at the time of the post, were most likely just finding out.

Social media gives voice to everyone, and some of those will be extremists.  Some of those will purposely say inflammatory things to garner attention.  The idea of obscurity frightens them, I believe.  To think that their life is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things inspires them to lash out with the most provocative and attention-grabbing statements they can think of in order to garner the attention they so desperately crave. But obscurity is in the cards for us all.

Name the top ten movie stars of the 1920’s, quick.  You can’t? Neither can I.  Even the famous are relegated to obscurity after a few decades. The nameless… they’re relegated to obscurity at birth.  Such is the case with Carl Nyberg.  Only he can’t seem to deal with that.  And so he purposely places himself in the spotlight as much as he can. Nonetheless, obscurity is his destiny.

Now in the days of social media when anyone and everyone can garner a large audience if what they say is extreme enough, it’s no surprise that an obscure attention-seeking inconsequential person would post a defamatory tweet in an attempt to prove to himself his own relevance.  It happens everyday, though rarely so heartlessly.

What is a surprise, is how long it’s taken and how reluctantly, those associated with Mr. Nyberg were to denounce his hate-speech.  Political survival alone should’ve been enough to motivate his friends to deald Raymond Lopez 15th ward reaction to Nybergnounce his hatred in a heartbeat.  But they didn’t.

Within two hours of Nyberg’s tweet, Alderman Raymond Lopez of the 15th Ward took to twitter to publicly denounce and challenge Mr. Nyberg’s post.  In comparison, it took almost two full days for Alderman John Arena, through a spokesperson, to do the same.  Nyberg has long been a supporter and campaign volunteer for Arena.  As of this writing, John Arena has yet to personally, directly, and publicly denounce the words of his long-time supporter, Carl Nyberg, on his social media pages despite a recent visit to the 16th Police District where he vowed support of the Chicago Police officers who patrol his 45thWard.

Arena with the 16th District police officers

It also took nearly two full days for the Northside DFA to sever ties with Nyberg and officially denounce his cruelty.  That is a curiously long time to decide how to react to something that is so clearly and unarguably wrong, hateful, and mean.

And so on a grey, lonely December morning on the south side of Chicago, a young widow stands flanked by two female Chicago police officers, one gripping her hand, the other cradling a six-month old girl who will never have the chance to get to know and love her Daddy.  Shock, sorrow, uncertainty, fear, and the wailing cry of bagpipes are all that fill the frigid air.  Today, the scene replays again.  Another grieving widow.  Three young daughters who’ve lost their Daddy a week before Christmas.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m brought to tears now at the thought as I have been a few times this week.  I’m not alone.

I will never be able to fully comprehend how a tragic event that has brought hardened politicians, cynical journalists, and strangers citywide and across all walks of life to tears can at the same time ignite such hatred and cruelty in the heart of Carl Nyberg and a slow cautious reaction to that cruelty from his political allies.

There is no understanding of it.  There are mean people in the world, which is exactly why we need people like Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo to stand up and combat that evil.

As far as Nyberg goes, all that’s left to say is shame on him.  May he scuttle back into the hole of obscurity to chase his windmills in the recesses of his darkened heart.

In the meantime, it’s going to be a very long time before this city forgets Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary.  Bravery and kindness always outlast cowardice and cruelty.

GoFundMe accounts have been set up for both Gary’s family and Marmolejo’s family. Police on Wednesday confirmed they are official accounts.

carl nyberg tweet

Wednesday afternoon, Edward Brown, 24, of Chicago, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.

 

Repeated attempts to contact Alderman Arena’s office have gone unanswered.  His only comments were to the blockclubchicago.org

My request for comment by the Northside DFA was answered with the following press release:

NDFA PR 12-19-18

 

 

 

Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, & Just Another Dead Little Boy

Just another little blurb. Someone has a sex-change, or a cop is too rough, or Donald Trump says something goofy and the world comes to a screeching halt and everyone yells and screams and marches and vents their righteous indignation until the next dumbass distraction comes along. Meanwhile little kids are gunned down on a weekly basis and it’s just another little blurb.

We can build DePaul a new arena, but we can’t hire more police. We can pay millions in no-bid contracts to the Mayor’s friends for poor services, but we can’t invest in teachers. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-barbara-byrd-bennett-supes-rahm-emanuel-edit-0602-20150601-story.html)  

What's he whispering to her,

What’s he whispering to her, “$2.5 million, I’ll split it with you.”?

Why was this little kid out on a scooter after midnight? Who was he working for? Where were his parents? What is society’s plan to fix this? (hint: we don’t have one) We only throw money at problems if we can throw it in the direction of the right pockets. Here, there is no money to be made by the power-players. There is no incentive to fix it other than a purely moral one. The blood of each of these kids is directly on the hands of former Mayor Daley and his decades of corruption and political games that put him first and Chicago second. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/02/how-former-chicago-mayor-_n_1472289.html (http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/hired-truck-scandal-mires-daley-in-worst-scandal-in-years/article_81c6f41b-f1f6-554d-854f-043af0bf59dd.html)

 If we name anything after him, it should be the city morgue.

His legacy can be summed up in brass shell casings and body bags.

His legacy can be summed up in brass shell casings and body bags.

I’m tired of seeing this. I’m tired of hearing about the shootings in the historically gang-ridden neighborhoods and now the historically good neighborhoods. I’m tired of the self-serving indignation and the empty rhetoric. I’m sick of people who focus on flags, flag burning, legalized pot, and trannies while no one bats an eye at the slaughtering of children in the streets of Chicago and in their own bedrooms.  

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-grandmother-of-slain-boy-7-who-would-do-that-to-a-baby-20150705-story.html#page=1

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/12/06/9-year-old-boy-hit-by-stray-bullet-on-near-west-side/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/no-arrests-in-death-of-chicago-girl-hit-by-stray-bullet-at-slumber-party/

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-03-16/news/0603160196_1_gun-shop-americans-for-gun-safety-gun-control-group-americans

images

http://www.policeone.com/gangs/articles/1245277-Chicago-gang-dispute-led-to-killing-on-bus/

The problem is larger than gun control.  Gun control isn’t a solution when the guns being used in these crimes are already illegal.  They are stolen, they are purchased on the black market, they are owned by and used by felons.  Those guns are already illegal.  The reason the politicians scream for gun control is because it’s a simplistic answer to a complicated problem.  They can get a good sound bite out of it by declaring “we need to get the guns off the streets” they can even introduce legislation and get it passed, but it does nothing to actually solve the larger problem which will take more than simple legislation, more than empty words, and more than a quick sound bite.

We dismantled the mob, we dismantled worldwide communism, we can dismantle these gangs too if we wanted to. So the larger question is, why aren’t we? This isn’t a question for the police, it is a question for the policy makers, those elected officials whose sworn duty it is to represent and protect the rights of the citizens, and yet it seems by their actions that all they are out to protect is their own self-interests and ironically, on occasion, the rights of criminals portrayed in the media as victims.  

The responsibility also falls on us, yes us. It’s in all our interests to put a stop to this senseless violence, but it needs to be a priority when we go to the polls. We have to shout about it, or they have no incentive to do anything to address it. Mention abortion and people on both sides of that issue get red in the face and argue themselves breathless and yet this happens and we just shake our heads, bemoan bad parents, and move on to the sports scores and shopping sales.  It’s time we do something about keeping alive the kids that are here. Let’s focus on the rights of a mother to not have her 7 or 12 year old murdered in the street.

8350491_G

The news story:

http://wgntv.com/2015/07/20/12-year-old-boy-shot-while-riding-scooter-in-lawndale/

http://www.myfoxchicago.com/story/29581431/12-year-old-shot-while-riding-scooter-on-west-side

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Why Would You Give It Away For Free?

It’s something they tell you to never do.  Never work for free. I agree with that to an extent, but I saw the sales of my self-published novel stagnating and decided I had to do something to get the damn thing out there.  The Kindle version only cost $2.99, but as soon as I cut that price to $0.00, the book has taken off.  I’ve given away more Kindle copies in 24 hours than I sold in the preceding seven months.  By all accounts, it’s a decent book, but getting word of it out beyond my own circle of friends has proved difficult, and so, for a few days, I’m giving it away for FREE.  So, if you’re looking for a book to read, and you like FREE stuff, (and who doesn’t like free stuff?), my novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge is available for download on Kindle for free through Friday May 29, 2015 (LAST DAY TO GET THE DEAL IS TODAY).  In case you’re still not sure if it’s worth it, here are some things people who’ve read it have said:

“Schnoor keeps you on the edge of your seat with this story packed full of scandle, inner struggle, sex, and blood shed. This is a must read for any Chicago native…”

“Great story! I’m sure it will hit home with a lot of people capturing the struggle that working families are living. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down!”

“If you are looking for a novel with excellent character development, an unflinching, realistic storyline, and a book you can’t put down if you tried, this is your book!!!”

“The author’s characters are well-crafted as is the plot. As the knife slowly twists and turns into the heart and soul of the main character, we along with him can feel that pain. We, along with him are taken, metaphorically, from Heaven to Purgatory and finally to Hell. It’s a story of how Evil can sometimes eat away at the soul of a man with high morals and principles and take him from a happy home in a good neighborhood to the depths of Desolation Row. If this is what author Brian Schnoor can do with his first novel – imagine what great books will be coming out of his imagination in the next few decades. I, like many others, are awaiting for the next Stephen King or Harlan Coben book – but read In The Sanctity of Revenge and you, like I, will also be awaiting the next Brian Schnoor novel.”

“By the end of the book, I couldnt wait to read this authors next effort. Was surprised to learn that this is his first novel. When the next one comes along, I’ll be reading it.”

“Thoroughly entertaining, a good read!”

Order it here Free until May 29, 2015: http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid= TODAY IS THE FINAL DAY!!

Thank you to all who have taken the time to read my work and for all the kind words and reviews.  I’m glad so many have liked it.  I haven’t paid any of these people to say any of this, so if you’re still wondering if you should get a copy, maybe that will convince you to give it a shot.  Good or bad, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to post them here in the comment section.

Thanks again!

Brian

Blessings & Curses and Trouble on the Horizon – A Passage from the Novel In The Sanctity of Revenge

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse…

– Moses, Deuteronomy

Skeletal arms trembled, struggling to lift the old steel revolver. Blue and purple veins popped through celluloid skin. Shaking hands with frail fingers and rusted joints fought with the trigger to pull the heavy hammer back. Jack Hanlon smiled at the sight.

SATURDAY JUNE 5, 2010

The sun hung high in the cloudless afternoon sky, drying the sidewalks and baking away the evidence of the viscous storm of the night before. Small branches and twigs littered the lawns and gutters of the sleepy Chicago side street. The two opposing rows of brick bungalows, most redbrick, some yellow-brick, that lined either side of Mobile Street had weathered the storm as they had done for close to a century now. There was no major damage. A few basements had taken in water, but just enough to make a mess before receding back into the floor drains.

Saturday morning was uneventful at the Hanlon home. Amy had gotten up with the boys and made them blueberry pancakes for breakfast while Jack slept in. Around noon, dressed in the gym shorts he’d slept in, cheap slippers, and an old softball shirt that read “Mad Dogs” in script across the front from his Wednesday night 16” league (on the back was an ad for their sponsor Windy Ray’s Tavern), Jack lifted the lid to the black, iron mailbox hanging on the wall just outside his front door. It was empty. He stood on the front porch, and peered up and down the quiet street in hopes of seeing the mailman walking his cart down the block. No luck.

Across the street Mrs. Kelly watered her flowerbed despite the heavy rains that had doused them overnight. When she saw Jack, she waved. Jack waved back and tried to duck back into the house before the old lady could trap him into a conversation but it was too late. She’d already dropped her hose and was heading across her small patch of perfect lawn calling his name, “Jack, oh Jack. I want to talk to you.”

It’s not that Jack disliked Mrs. Kelly. In fact, he liked her very much. She reminded him of his grandmother, and he felt a sort of responsibility toward her since her husband passed. Jack would spend weekend days doing little jobs around Mrs. Kelly’s house, fixing this, patching that. Amy would take her shopping if the weather was bad and the buses were running slow. But lonely widows can talk an awfully long time, and make a big deal about things of no consequence, and frankly today Jack wasn’t up for one of those conversations. His mind was elsewhere.

“Jack,” she called hustling across the street. “Jack, I want to talk to you. Don’t go anywhere.” She hurried as quickly as a seventy-eight year old woman in Walgreen’s sneakers can. Jack stepped off his porch and met her on the sidewalk.

“Hi Mrs. Kelly, how are you?”

“Oh, I could complain, but who would listen,” she replied.

‘Apparently, this morning, it’s going to be me,’ Jack thought, but held his smile.

“Anyway, did you hear that storm last night? It woke me from a sound sleep. I thought lightening hit that big tree and that it was going to fall in on my head. Thank the Lord it was just a clap of thunder. Did it wake the children? You look like you missed a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Timmy woke up a couple of times, but went back to bed pretty quick. Once I was up though, I had a hard time falling back to sleep. I wish I was more like Amy, she gets up with the kids, and as soon as her head hits the pillow again, she’s out cold.” Truth was, Jack was already up. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately.

“That’s because women work harder than men,” Mrs. Kelly gave a wink and a smile.

“In my house, that is certainly the case. I won the lottery when I married Amy. She’s one of a kind.”

“Don’t you forget that Jack Hanlon,” she said, her eyes narrowing, then flashed him a wink and a smile. Jack had often thought that Mrs. Kelly had probably been a very beautiful woman in her youth, and now and then a flash of that girl would appear in that wink and smile she often gave to let you know she was teasing. “Ah, she coulda done worse herself too ya know,” Mrs. Kelly continued, “Anyhow, the reason I stopped you is because I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure Mrs. Kelly, what do you need?”

“Well, the storm last night did knock a huge branch off the neighbor’s tree into my backyard. I’ve been telling them for months now that the tree needs to be pruned, but that good for nothin’ bum sits on his backside all day doing nothing, and you know she’s not much of a housekeeper. I’ve never been inside, but from what I hear there is crusted food all over the kitchen and dust bunnies everywhere. How people could live like that is beyond me. Anyhow, I know he’d never move it from my yard, or at least I’d be waiting till my last breath for him to do it, so if you wouldn’t mind just stopping by – when you have time of course, no hurry – and just put it out in the alley for me?”

“Of course Mrs. Kelly. Give me a minute to put on a decent pair of shoes and grab a saw and I’ll be right over.”

“You’re a doll Jack, thank you. You know, since Harold died I’ve really come to realize how nice it was to have a man in the house. I am certainly for women’s equality and what not, but there’s no denying that there are some things men are better at taking care of. Maybe I’m just an old woman, I don’t know. And don’t you dare tell a soul I said that or so help me God I’ll shoot you right in the face,” she smiled and winked at him again with that twinkle in her warm blue eyes. That’s when Jack had the vision of those skinny little arms struggling to raise a pistol to eye level and fighting to pull the trigger. The thought had made him smile and he wondered if she noticed. Of course, if he knew what would eventually come of them all, he never would have found such a scene amusing.

“Okay, see you in a few minutes.” Jack turned to go inside, then stopped and turned back toward Mrs. Kelly who was about to cross the street back to her house. “Mrs. Kelly, did you happen to get your mail yet?”

“No, he hasn’t been by yet Jack. It’s that new fella. I don’t like him very much. He’s slow. When we had the black fella…” she said the word ‘black’ a little quieter than the rest, almost a whisper but not quite, “… we always got our mail by ten o’clock, even on Saturdays. This guy though, you never know when he’s gonna decide to show up. I’ve complained several times.”

“I’m sure you have. Thank you Mrs. Kelly.” Jack took another look up the street for the mailman, then dropped his head and went in the house to fetch his shoes and chainsaw.

Fog and smoke in Chicago at 4 am – a Passage from the Novel: In The Sanctity of Revenge

Jack reached in his shirt pocket for his cigarette pack, but it wasn’t there. As if snapping out of a dream, he was suddenly aware of his surroundings. It was nearly four a.m.  His kitchen was dark except for the lights under the cabinets at the far end of the room that shed just enough glow to cast faint shadows on the opposite wall and door. Jack looked around and found the cigarette box on the table in front of him. He picked it up. It was empty. He got his shoes, reached in his pocket and found a balled up ten-dollar bill, grabbed his keys and went out the back door toward the gas station at the corner.

The morning air was humid with a slight chill. Fog hung high in the alley, gathering around the lamplight like a swarm of mosquitoes. Though it was six miles east of his alley, Jack could smell the lake in the air, a mix of fresh water and stale fish. He liked it.

The city was quiet on Sunday mornings. The four o’clock bars were just emptying out and a few muffler-less cars roared down Montrose Avenue, but for the most part, everything was still. Jack breathed in the Lake Michigan air as deep as he could and exhaled slowly.

At the gas station, the store area was closed and locked. Jack had to make his transaction through an aluminum drawer and a tin speaker. From behind the glass, the muffled voice of the attendant reverberated through the speaker in a thick accent. Jack assumed he’d said something along the lines of ‘how may I help you’ or ‘what the fuck do you want’.

“Box of Marlboro Lights,” Jack pulled the ten out of his pocket and placed it in the waiting drawer. The drawer closed then opened again. The sawbuck was gone, a box of cigarettes and some change left in its place. Jack walked off smacking the pack against the palm of his hand.

When he got back home, he sat on the back steps smoking and admiring the peacefulness of the pre-dawn, the sky dark as night but on the verge of daybreak. Jack teetered between the peaceful city around him and the clanging clatter in his mind.

         — In The Sanctity of Revenge is a gripping tale of anger, betrayal, and vengeance set in Chicago in the wake of the Great Recession.

Available for purchase:  http://www.inthesanctityofrevenge.com http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor/dp/0986297410/