Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Opinion

January 28, 2014

Empathy, challenge from Gov. Pence via Mt. Baldy

INDIANAPOLIS – One of the most unique places in Indiana is Mount Baldy on the southern rim of Lake Michigan.

In a state with no mountains and Southern Indiana ridges that rise only 1,000 feet above sea level, Mount Baldy is conspicuous as a rounded sand dune towering over the Michigan City harbor. This is my hometown, and as a child, climbing Mount Baldy and rolling down through the squeaky white sand was a summer ritual and one enjoyed by other kids growing up there, like Scott Pelath, Don Larsen and John G. Roberts.

It became a generational thing when I would take my two sons up to the top where a lesson would be taught. To the east was Michigan City and Long Beach. To the west was the Chicago skyline and Gary’s steel mills. Looking north, there was 380 miles of fresh water sea stretching all the way to Manistique, Mich. This was a view of “freedom and unparalleled opportunity, adventure and danger.”

To the south was the Indiana State Penitentiary, a massive Civil War era chamber of punishment, assault and despair. If you happened to have been atop Mount Baldy on Sept. 26, 1933, you might have heard the pops of a gun battle as John Dillinger sprang his gang.

To my sons, Mount Baldy was a lesson of choices, opportunities, challenges and consequences.

Eight decades later on July 15, 2013, there was the antipodal event, when 6-year-old Nathan Woessner, hiking on Mount Baldy with his father Greg and a friend, disappeared, as the Associated Press described it, “without warning or sound.”

During his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Mike Pence picked up the narrative. “Michigan City police and fire raced to the dune and were joined by beachgoers using their bare hands as local businesses rushed machinery to clear away the sand. Even reporters covering the story were seen using their notepads to dig. For nearly three hours, no one out of the nearly 140 people on that sand dune gave up until a firefighter felt a hand beneath the surface and pulled little Nathan to safety. They called it the Miracle on Mount Baldy.”

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