Friday, May 29, 2015

Pomp and Circumstance and Separating Accident from Murder


While "June grad" is every bit as traditional as "June bride," in fact, most spring college commencement ceremonies take place in May. But whether students receive their diploma in May or June, for those who've spent four years (or more) working toward graduation, the moment is bittersweet, a pause to reflect on years of studying hard and taking those first unsupervised steps toward independence, before gaining confidence and readying themselves to face the an exciting but uncertain future. We salute all the May and June grads in your families! May they make you--and themselves--very proud.


By Jessica Fletcher
(From "Murder, She Wrote" by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain)

It's been many years since I was a student on a college campus, but I have had occasion to return to academia the few times I've led undergraduate writing courses. (I'm not including my classes on criminology at Manhattan University, when I lived in New York City.) But none of those experiences, while stimulating, had quite the dramatic impact as when I taught at Schoolman College in Indiana. It was my first time living off-campus in a small town in the heartland of America, my first time as a "visiting professor," and my first time reaching a storm shelter just before a tornado touched down.


I'd seen a green sky before but nothing like this. The color was not the green you picture when you think of grass and trees. It wasn't mint green or hospital green or even olive green. It was more like the color of the ocean when it pushes into the bay and up the river, when the bottom is murky and an oar dipped in the water roils up the particles of silt into a muddy cloud. It was that color green.

Well, clearly, I survived although it was a close thing. Unfortunately, one of my fellow professors didn't. He had warned me of the impending storm and then he'd run off to meet a colleague. The colleague escaped harm but Professor Newmark was found under a file cabinet, face-down on top of his empty briefcase, in a building destroyed by the storm.

...I'd had a feeling that something wasn't right. Two men had braved a tornado, and one of them had died. What kept them in their places? What worry was greater than the need to take cover from the storm? And when it was upon them, why didn't they run? I'd heard the roar of the wind and felt its breath on my neck. Yet I'd made it to shelter in time. Why hadn't they?

And that briefcase. Where were its contents? Briefcases usually contain papers of one sort or another....Surely, if the tornado had emptied the briefcase, wouldn't there be at least a few papers left inside or around it?

No, something was wrong. And I wanted to know what it was.


 (Majoring in Murder is number 19 of 43 in the "Murder, She Wrote" series.)

Here in New England tornadoes are rare, but hurricanes are not. Have you ever weathered a terrible storm?


12 comments:

  1. I've lived in many parts of the country so have experienced a lot of bad weather: earthquakes in California, including the "big" one in 1979, tropical storms in Florida, and the record cold wave in 1994 in the Chicago area. I grew up in Northwest Indiana and we had our share of terrible weather then, too - like the Blizzard of 1967 where the snowdrifts were so deep my mother was in over her head when she stepped into one. But the scariest was the tornado in 1965 when my mom took me, my younger sister and brothers into her room to sit on her bed so we would all be together and safe. A poplar tree came through the house wall and hit the bedsprings causing the bed to fall to the floor and us with it! No one was hurt and it was a good story for later, but pretty frightening at the time and amazing to experience the power of nature.

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    1. Ooh, Grandma Cootie, scary stuff. So glad you all came through it fine.

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  2. Where I live, there has been some bad weather, but I have been lucky to avoid serious (dangerous) weather. (Knock on wood)

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  3. I've weathered a few terrible storms. I remember walking home from school during a hurricane, holding my grandmother's hand when I was quite young. During my teenage years I was caught in another one. Both happened in N.Y. A few years ago here in N.C. there was a pretty bad tornado that wrecked homes less than a couple of miles away from me.
    Love the Murder She Wrote series so much!! Thx for making me aware of Majoring in Murder - #19.

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  4. Thanks, Laurie. We've been through quite a few hurricanes but the worst that ever happened was a few days without electricity that challenged our pioneer spirit.

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  5. Yes, both Irene and Sandy. Irene hit us the hardest. Luckily no major damage right at my home but our community was nocked down for awhile
    I love the series, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of THE GHOST AND MRS. FLETCHER. I admit I don't read all of the books, I love the books set in Maine. Although I really enjoyed A SLAYING IN SAVANNAH (one of my favorite cities!) It is just amazing to me how much like the television show the books are (but only better.) And I appreciate that I can read them a bit out of order.
    So thank you, thank you for the great reading.

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    1. What nice compliments! Thanks, Margaret. THE GHOST AND MRS. FLETCHER does take place in Cabot Cove. The one we're working on now DESIGN FOR MURDER brings Jessica back to New York City for Fashion Week. So glad you escaped damage from Irene and Sandy.

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  6. I have weathered floods and blizzards here in Ohio.

    Love this series. :)

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    1. Blizzards are awful, but floods are even worse if the water gets in your home. We're contemplating putting Jessica in a flood one of these days. Funny, we just talked about it yesterday. So glad you love the series, Brooke.

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  7. The worst tornado I have seen was on April 11, 1965. Known as the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. Approximately one mile from the house we lived in at that time, twin funnels went through a swatch of Elkhart County, Indiana. Several other tornadoes also hit on that day throughout Indiana, along with Illinois, Ohio and several other Midwestern states. You can actually google Palm Sunday tornado and it will bring up several images and articles on the tornadoes. (I was confirmed on that day and their was a family gathering at our house) I stood outside with my father, grandfather, older brother, and not sure who else. We watched those twin funnels and could see the debris flying around in them. The biggest impact was on my school schedule. The gymnasium of my Jr. High was shut for two days as the gym was used as a morgue. I watched out the window of our house for hours as every conveyance possible brought in the deceased and then later as families showed up to see if they could find their loved ones. Yes, we all thought it was very creepy to have gym in the gymnasium a couple days later. Our teacher yelled at us to get in there, there were no dead bodies.

    That was the biggest tornado I have been in, but a year earlier my elementary school dismissed everyone and by the time a friend and I made it about five blocks from school we were pelted with hail. Some woman yelled at us to come in and get into the basement. Being the bright young things we were, we stood there looking like she was crazy. Stranger inviting us into her house. Finally we gave in, only to find around twenty kids in the basement playing games as we waited for the storm to pass and someone to come and pick us up.

    I leave the blizzards along.

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    1. What a caring and generous neighbor you had, Liz. Lucky for all those kids. We did look up Palm Sunday tornado and those pictures in black-and-white are even more dramatic than ones taken in later years in color. Violent weather is scary to go through. We keep thinking about our friends in Houston and hope they're doing okay. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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