Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tribute to nurses instead of Speck would be a welcome relief for neighborhood

It was with a personal touch that I read the Chicago Tribune account of Dr. John Schmale, who discovered a stash of slides in a water-flooded basement bringing back to life his little sister Nina Jo.

Who was one of the eight women who died nearly 50 years ago when she was in an apartment being shared by several student nurses at the old South Chicago Community Hospital nursing school that happened to be stumbled upon by Richard Speck.

HE WAS A commercial seaman whose ship happened to dock in the ports along the Calumet River, and he got drunk in a tavern that now is a vacant lot, when he got the urge to find those young girls.

One got raped, while eight were stabbed and slashed to death. One nurse had the temerity to hide under a bed and would up surviving the attack.

Schmale talks of wanting to create a memorial to the July 1966 incident that would remember the young women and let us know of the potential human beings they never got the chance to become.

Which would be a relief, since much of what gets remembered of that long-ago mass murder was of Speck – both in his gruesomeness that night, the way that death penalty law got altered in the 1970s so that his own death sentence was never carried out, and that crude prison-made (it appears) porno film featuring Speck himself.

NOT THE MOST pleasant of accounts to recall. Something I wouldn’t even bother to acknowledge if not for Schmale.

For I am a South Chicago neighborhood native, although I haven’t lived in the neighborhood proper in a long time.

But my usual route to get there includes a trip on the Bishop Ford Freeway to 103rd Street, where I then venture east. Which takes me through the neighborhood where the crime took place.

I can actually venture up toward 100th Street to check out the townhouse where the slayings took place, if I’m in a particularly ghoulish mood. I most definitely venture past Trumbull Park.

WHICH IS ONE of those assets that theoretically could help make the South Deering neighborhood a nice community to live in. Although I recall the news reports that came out at the time of the crime that acknowledged the initial Chicago Police Department reaction was to roust all the would-be delinquents who were hanging around the park at the time to see if any of them were involved in the brutal slayings.

It’s something of a daily reminder of what once happened there. Although I’m sure that with the passing of a half-century, there probably are way too many people too young to know. And some who probably could care less what happened before they arrived in the neighborhood.

They may figure there have been countless crimes committed in the area since then, so many that getting worked up over this one is somehow a waste of time.

Which may be why shifting the focus off Speck (he wound up dying in prison nearly a quarter of a century ago) would be a plus. The real crime of murder isn’t so much the violent act itself, but that it causes a loss of life that could have contributed something to society.

PARTICULARLY IN THIS case, where potential medical personnel were involved.

I also recall a moment in high school where I had to give a speech – mine was about the death penalty, and I used a lame argument for capital punishment that Speck didn’t deserve to live after what he did.

Although now that I think of it all these years later, I’m inclined to think the Speck punishment (spending the last 25 years of his life locked up) was most appropriate – particularly because of that porno-film incident – which I recall seeing along with several General Assembly members in Springfield who used it as a chance to investigate prison security.

Seeing Speck showing off his pair of blue panties and babbling about how his incarcerated life turned out made him such a pathetic joke – one that truly isn’t worth paying too much more attention to.


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