President Greg rang the Rotary bell soon after Joan Knoertzer’s beautiful serenade and everyone crowding Weber’s ballroom stood to sing the national anthem. John Sepp stepped to the podium to pinch hit for vacationing Steve Pierce. Commemorating the centenaries of the births of Leonard Bernstein and Nelson Mandela, John shared some salient quotes; of the maestro: “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”; “Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time…The wait is simply too long”; “To be a success as a Broadway composer, you must be Jewish or gay. I’m both”; “I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic”; “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” And of Mr. Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” [good advice for a world awash in the tyrannies of ‘tough love’.]; “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”; “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”; “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Wonderful Inspiration, John, and Happy Birthday Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Mandela!
John Ackenhusen, our Immediate Past President, then led us in song. By way of setting up the first number John related the story of “the Fifth Founding Rotarian,” Harry Ruggles. A master of timing, Mr. Ruggles once stopped a speaker from delivering the punchline to a ribald joke by deftly announcing, “Let’s sing ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart!'” The assembly did melodic justice to the aforementioned song, then, without missing a beat, plowed into a joyous rendition of “This Little Light of Mine”, with Joanie keeping the spirit alive with a keyboard segue to an unexpected final verse. Bravo.
And sustaining that spirit of a sweeter, simpler time were Susan Smith Gray (donning a beautiful summer straw hat with flowers) and Ann Schriber of the Social Committee, who announced a special event for Saturday, August 4: “Have you ever wondered what Kiwanis is like behind-the-scenes? Well, Kiwanis is celebrating its opening in [vastly expanded quarters] on Jackson Road with a ‘Shop Til You Drop’ event and luncheon from 10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.” Ann then emphasized, “It’s a really good lunch, for just $5. We need your reservations, though, by next Wednesday.” Your reporter has seen the new Kiwanis digs and its kaleidoscopic array of furniture, antiques, and bric-a-brac. It is impressive. Don’t miss this one.
Greg returned to the podium to inform us that “there are some dues delinquencies out there.” Then, as if to palliate the anxiety of some members diligently probing their memory for cognitive proof of the check-writing act, he added, “They’re people we know who will pay.” [Where is my check book ledger…?]
“Sadistic brutality and mystical feeling go always hand in hand…” — Wilhelm Reich, 1933
Fellow-Rotarian and Washtenaw County Prosecutor, Brian Mackie, introduced our speaker. “Because of [Senator] William Van Regenmorter, we have victims’ rights in Michigan,” Brian began, before admitting that maintaining or expanding those rights has become problematical. “…Brenda is the director of our victims’ rights unit in the prosecutor’s office. She guides her dedicated staff and has a national reputation. Mass tragedies are not new” — Brian cited the example of the Bath School disaster in Michigan (1927), carried out by school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe who detonated bombs planted in the school’s basement and in his car. Thirty-eight children and six adults died. resulting in the deaths of 38 children and six adults. “Brenda Quiet will tell us something about the [resources] available to victims of violent crimes.”
Applause greeted Ms. Quiet as she took the podium. She began by explaining the role of victims’ advocates — “We’re there to tell victims what is available to them, from the beginning of a crime to its conclusion…and beyond. For instance, we advise [the victims and their family members] when a perpetrator is going to be released from prison. She then used as a case study the Las Vegas Strip Shooting of October 1, 2017. “Twenty-two thousand people attended the music festival,” Brenda began. “It was the last day of the festival. Fifty-eight people were killed and 500 were wounded. Victims fled into the casinos. They didn’t know who was shooting [or from where], so they thought they were being followed inside by shooters.” Local, state, and federal response was fast. “A Family Assistance Center was established near but off the Strip. Media and the public were not allowed in, [only victims]. Because of the large number of victims, a call went out for victims advocates to attorneys general across the U.S.” Brenda was part of the six-person team dispatched from Michigan. A grim scene greeted the volunteers. “We were experienced, but not prepared for what was going on,” she declared. “The first thing we did was to ensure for a safe, welcoming center.” Brenda’s unit was charged with talking with the victims and “letting them speak at their own pace.” Media informed the public of the existence and location of the assistance center. “Inside, tables were spread far apart so people could speak freely. Family services were located at stations, and an area for child care was set aside. The kinds of services provided were the American Red Cross; legal assistance; physicians who gave exams and recommended [when victims needed transport to] the hospital. Lodging assistance was also provided as many concert-goers were from out-of-town.” Indeed, the public and private response was massive. Brenda summed it up when she quoted an injured person: “No, not me, someone else needs your help more than I. She and her team provided meals, dealt with victims’ “intense fear, sadness, and loss”, and even provided 10-15 trained dogs to help ameliorate the pain. “We need to rally around victims to help them heal,” Brenda asserted.
Oh, and yes, “the Center is still open. It’s now called the Resilience Center.”
After a heartfelt ovation from the assembly, Greg thanked Brenda and adjourned an emotional and highly uplifting meeting with words from Mark Twain — “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”