Patriots Park

The city’s first public art project is a monument and flag pole honoring Evanston soldiers who gave their lives in the Spanish-American War, the Civil War and World War I.  In 1929 the Fort Dearborn Chapter (established in 1894) of the Daughters of the American Revolution commissioned the work. Stephen Beames (1896-1969), an Indian-born, Canadian artist who studied, lived and worked in the United States, created it. He also taught at Rockford (IL) College until 1931, when he moved to California; later he made his living as a bookkeeper.

The small park is on a sliver of land at the intersection of Davis Street and Sheridan Road, perpendicular to Lake Michigan and the beachfront. Stop by for a closer look at this memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Ride of Silence

Nearly 20 cyclists, all wearing bike helmets and most similarly clad in yellow neon shirts with the kneeling cyclist logo, gathered at Chandler-Newberger Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to take part in this year’s Ride of Silence.  Before we started, some people shared stories about friends who were injured or killed while riding; one person’s story was a personal account of his own accident and how the support of the cycling community meant so much to him and his wife during his recovery. Still recuperating, he was not yet ready to join in this year’s ride.

The silent procession flows at an easy pace to encourage riders of all levels to join.  The leader, Dave, moved steadily and deliberately, observing all traffic rules. An important aspect of the ride is to raise awareness of the need to ‘share the road.’ There is safety in numbers: our group was visually distinctive as we rode 11 miles together through northwest Evanston, Skokie and Niles. The ride concluded uneventfully with a whoop of exhilaration at Evanston’s Wheel & Sprocket, who generously provided not only the neon t-shirts but pizza and drinks.

I found out about the ride through The Chainlink.org and the Evanston Bicycle Club. The Ride of Silence is an international event started in 2003 by Chris Phelan in Dallas as a way to honor the memory of a cyclist friend killed on the road.  It’s a great cause and free to participate.

Ride of Silence

Temple Grandin Speaking at Northwestern

I am a fan of Temple Grandin. Her book Thinking in Pictures is one of my favorites and remains an amazing testimony about parental support, learning styles and empathy.  She is speaking in Evanston tomorrow, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Welsh-Ryan Arena on Northwestern University’s campus, 2705 Ashland Avenue. The event is free and open to the public. If you care about someone on the autistic spectrum with learning issues, I recommend attending. You can also register for the event here.

Temple Grandin

Five Days at Memorial

What would you do? That is the question the reader asks while reading the gripping Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.

Five Days at Memorial

Five Days is a detailed account of Hurricane Katrina and its effect on Memorial Hospital, and how the lack of preparedness on all levels (federal, state, city, corporate) was as much a disaster as the hurricane.

It is a story of how the families, patients and healthcare professionals who camped out at Memorial during the storm coped with unbelievable pressure, tremendous humidity and heat, no running water or electricity, wild rumors exacerbated by the periodic sounds of gunfire, escalating fear and sleep deprivation mixed with the overpowering smells of sweat, disease, human waste and death.

It is how doctors tagged patients with numbers and prioritized them based on their health status and likelihood of getting better; the numbers determined if, and in what order, they would be scheduled for difficult helicopter evacuations.

Ultimately it is about how a group of individuals decided, after four days of worsening conditions, the best and most humane option, for many of the remaining patients, was to euthanize those the doctors deemed too weak or sick too be rescued.

Fink’s research is unparalleled; she interviewed more than 500 people and sought out experts and first-hand accounts for six years. The tone is matter of fact and encompasses many points of view: doctors, nurses, patients, family members, National Guard helicopter pilots and many others. The reader sympathizes with the patients and hospital staff involved and strains to understand how awful the situation must have been to push good doctors to make previously unimaginable decisions.

Forty-five people died at Memorial during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, more than any other hospital or nursing home in New Orleans during that same timeframe. Eighteen of those deaths were deemed suspicious and likely criminal. Amid a media frenzy and emotional public outcry, charges were investigated and documented, but the grand jury refused to indict. Yet as Fink writes, “The juror was convinced — and, she believed, all of her fellow jurors were too — that a crime had occurred on that fifth day at Memorial.”  

How would each of us cope in a disaster, if professional obligations demanded us to work without knowing if our families were safe, if our homes were intact or if crime was rampant around us? How safe and prepared are our local hospitals for a Katrina-level disaster? How would we allocate scarce resources among many needy people?  Fink summarizes the dilemma before us on the last page of the book.

“Life and death in the immediate aftermath of a crisis most often depends on the preparedness, performance, and decision-making of the individuals on the scene.”

Join the discussion on July 29 as the Keepinitreal book group of the Evanston Library reads Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.