Sunday night, 11pm
It happened a little after noon yesterday (Saturday). I was supposed to be going down I-65 also to announce the semi-state game between Griffith and Marion, but I double booked by promising to fetch my daughter from Chicago later in the day. It's a big ordeal picking her up now that she has the dog.
So at first I ignored my phone blowing up. But then it didn't stop dinging, so I walked on down the hall and got this text from producer Ryan -
The Griffith bus flipped over on I-65. Game will start late.
Big Rich, a longtime caller from Griffith, sent me a picture of the overturned bus. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to do one thing, and that was to get to the radio station and go on the air. That's just how it is. There are things that you shrug off, that you don't get in your car and speed to the station for. And then there are things that you do get in your car and speed to the station for.
The problem was, however, that on Friday evening I left my car at the station. I meant to go back late Friday for it, but, you know.
So there I was running out to the driveway to hurry down to the station... and there's no car in the driveway. So I called Alexis, who was as always working on a deposition or settlement agreement at the office... and she came hurrying home to take me to the station. Then the both of us shifted in to emergency mode and got the story out to the Calumet Reigon as it unfolded.
First, we had Kirk "Minnow" Smith on the phone a little more than an hour after the accident. Minnow does color commentary on games for WJOB and he was on his way down I-65 to do just that when he and play-by-play announcer Brian Jennings came up on the bus in the ditch. Jennings not only announces games for WJOB. He's also the dead of students and baseball coach at Griffith, so he right away recognized the students crawling out of the bus.
I won't go into it too much what Minnow had to say. You can watch the video above if you want to hear how it unfolded on local radio. The important thing that Minnow brought to us was that at the time there were no reported fatalities. And that's how it is still now, 33 hours or so after the crash. It's a miracle that no one died.
Also, Griffith councilman Rick Ryfa called in with an update that coach Garrett had been airlifted to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. A student who was on the way down in a car called in and was obviously shaken, but he did say something poignant like -
Just everyone remember our boys.
I'll check my notes on the conversation and get it exact. The young kid said it just right so I should probably be true to his words. State senator Lonnie Randolph was on his way down and he called in live also. The next morning you could read Lonnie's description of the wreckage in the Times, as Al Hamnik quoted the conversation in his column on page B5.
Alexis helped out answering phones and checking Facebook and Twitter and the text line and emails and such. We've been here before. I suppose that during a crisis we make a pretty good team, and then life goes on.
Tomorrow morning we'll pick up talk about what happened. There's a lot of storylines besides a miracle happening. The Indiana High School Athletic Association is still trying in court to take away Griffith's state runner-up finish from last year. There's a general feeling that the IHSAA is going vigilante on Griffith, so we'll see what happens going forward. On the channel 5 news just now, starting guard Martic Shiele talked about let's bring a state ring back to Griffith... while he stood there on crutches. With all the bumps and bruises and crutches and neck braces, I can't see how Griffith can play the game on Wednesday, as Bobby Cox just announced was gonna happen. Can Griffith change the posted roster and bring up JV players? What about the injured players? How about this idea - play the Griffith-Marion game in the state title slot on Saturday... and then the next Saturday play the state title game. That would be kinda cool, don't you think?
And fair. Anyways, I posted above the interview that our own Jordan Beasley did recently with Martin Shiele. It's a good interview. He's a good kid. I hope like hell that he gets to play in semi-state, whenever it's played. I hope like hell that Griffith rebounds and wins the semi-state and then goes on to win the Indiana state basketball championship. Now that's a story. Redemption, revenge, heartache and a bus crash. How much more can these Griffith kids endure?
To find out, the three or four of you will have to buy the book, rent the movie. It'll be a story about a team that
1.gets in a fight,
2. gets kicked out of the state tournament
3. gets reinstated by the court in to the state tournament
4. wins and wins all the way to the state finals, where they lose
5. Bobby Cox and the IHSAA fight like hell in court to take Griffith's runner-up title away
6. They win in appeals court... the day before Griffith wins the Hammond sectional
5. Griffith wins Regionals... headed to semi-state
6. their bus rolls over on I-65
7. a miracle happens - nobody was killed
You write 8, 9 and 10. I know what the hundreds of people who showed up today at Central Park in Griffith today want. They want to write in that Griffith beats Marion, and then hobbles down to Bankers Life a couple days later and wins the state championship. That's what I want, too, along with the three or four of you and a couple of Hollywood producers who can't wait to buy the movie rights. We are with you, Griffith. As I've said on the air before the accident many times - you make us proud. Now, in addition, you're making us get down on our knees to pray.