With the anniversary of Shawnee Forests wildfire, the largest in Ohio’s history approaching, I’d like to share what my family experienced last year including the arrest of my son, Michael Thompson.
On Friday of Trout Derby 2009, two officers chased an individual through my daughter’s campsite, in the process ran into her tent, tearing it and knocking part of it down. In the early-morning hours, officers returned in search of a lost “baton.” What the officers found was not a lost “baton” but the officer’s gun. On Saturday, around 2 p.m., I delivered drinking water to the firefighters, fighting the blazes on Mackletree Road. As I was turning around, I heard people yelling and shouting for help. I watched the hikers on the backpack trail run through smoke and flames. They told me they were frightened and furious that there were no warnings of the prescribed burn. I drove the bewildered hikers to the campground in search of a ranger to inform them of other hikers possibly still on the burning trail. We were told at the campground to look on Mackletree for a ranger, where we did not find one. We went to the park office and finally reported to a desk clerk at the lodge the situation and were asked to wait there for a ranger. Waiting until 5 p.m., I had to leave the hikers without speaking to a ranger.
This was Trout Derby Day and not one ranger did we find or were able to report the dangerous situation. I read in the newspaper the trails were not closed until Monday. On Sunday, my son, Michael Thompson, a member of the Nile Township Fire Department, was arrested and charged with arson in connection with the fires on Mackletree Road, after calling for backup. He returned to the fire and turned on his emergency flashers and ran to the fire, pushing and pulling debris with his hands and feet away from the fire into a creek. He heard shouting and turned to find three officers with their guns drawn on him. He identified himself as a firefighter and was searched.
The accelerant found on his person was a mini Bic lighter. The fire department arrived on scene to find Michael handcuffed. They identified him as a firefighter who had been fighting the fire since Friday. Officers informed the fire department that Michael was running from them, which wasn’t the case. He was arrested on the spot and was not apprehended later. The rest has been a nightmare for my family. The charges were dropped due to lack of evidence and the charges have been stricken from his record.
This letter has two purposes, the first being a way to thank the people who voiced their outrage, in defense of my son. My son’s arrest brought my family to our knees, not knowing if we could ever get backup. It was the voice of the people as a community and the power of prayers that gave us strength and comfort. There is no way we can thank each person who helped us during this time. Which brings me to the second reason for this letter — it’s in no way meant to finger-point or to suggest liability, its simply to inform people what happened to my family, making them aware of what happened to us, and perhaps prevent it happening to them.
I’m appalled that officers lost a gun in my daughter’s campsite for hours. I’m appalled that hikers’ lives were at stake and that we couldn’t find one ranger on Trout Derby Day. I’m appalled that my son was arrested and charged with a horrendous crime, his name and face all over the media and his reputation left as blackened as the fire-damaged forest. I’m appalled that everytime I go to seek peace and pray where I was taught by my father, that there are constant reminders of that fire, with posters of rewards for arson all over the forest.
Perhaps by sharing what happened to my family, we the people may be better informed of the happenings in our state parks and forest. In my opinion, the safety and well-being of the people was not the first priority of those elected and hired to ensure so. In my opinion, there are others who may have similar experiences, and I invite them
to share that with me at email@example.com. In my opinion, if this is what is happening to the people, what’s happening to the forest? What’s happening that we don’t know about or hasn’t been disclosed to us, the people? We don’t, unless we share what we know with each other.
During my son’s arrest, an officer was heard to say, “These hillbillies think they own this forest.” I’ve had other people tell me they have personally heard this same remark by officers. Evidently these officers aren’t from around these parts, or they would know, that we hillbillies belong to the forest, and that hillbillies take care of their own. My family is so very grateful for both.
Dauphane Honaker Thompson
Counseling Center says thanks to those helping
out at recent event
On behalf of the Board of Directors, administration and staff of The Counseling Center Inc., I would like to thank the community for the overwhelming support of our Second Annual Celebrity Dinner and Auction: “Cooking for Our Kids” on March 16. This event was to raise funds and awareness regarding outreach and prevention programs and activities for at-risk youth in our community.
It was a very successful event, not only from a fundraising standpoint, but from the number of new friends that The Counseling Center has realized from the event. Ed Hughes, president and CEO of The Counseling Center Inc. (TCC), and Clarence Parker, program director for TCC Prevention and Outreach, were overwhelmingly pleased with the outstanding attendance, support, sponsorships and attention to the purpose of the event from those who participated. Many children will benefit from the generosity displayed during this campaign.
An event of this magnitude could not have been achieved without the many community volunteers and partners who helped before, during and after the event. We want to express our very special thanks to Jennifer Schackart, Jennifer Lavender and staff at the SOMC Friends Community Center for providing a wonderful venue and the “trimmings” for this event.
The Counseling Center Inc. continuously relies on the Portsmouth Daily Times, the Community Common, WNXT, WIOI, WPA, and the Scioto Voice for publicity and outstanding news coverage. We would like to express our gratitude. The media so often represents The Counseling Center’s voice, words and faces. You are appreciated.
Mark your calendars for March 15, 2011, for the Third Annual Celebrity Dinner and Auction and we will soon be saying: “Bon Appetit!”
Susan J. McComas
The Counseling Center Inc.
Former resident hopes county can return to
its former glory days
I am a native and former resident of Scioto County, as is my husband of many years. My siblings still live in the area; our parents are laid to rest there. The busy and vibrant Portsmouth of our youth is gone, although, in truth, it was fading fast even in the 1960s.
We left the area in the early 1970s, shortly after high school, in search of work. We returned for a few short years in the mid 1980s and left again, mostly because of work opportunities in other cities, but also because the decline of the area was becoming apparent and was a concern.
I believe the decline really began decades ago, long before the proposed city center or mall projects fell through, when the manufacturing jobs in Portsmouth, New Boston and the outlying areas began to leave. Do you remember Williams Manufacturing, Mitchellace, Vulcan Last, Empire Detroit Steel and Taylor Stone Company, some of the many companies which are now long gone?
With the loss of most of the area’s manufacturing jobs, many Scioto County residents became dependent on government assistance. The work ethic was lost — why look for work when there is none, especially if you can get by with food stamps and welfare checks — and if there is no work, what do you do with your time?
How do you structure your day? Now we are seeing the second and third generations of citizens who have no work ethic, no goals, little or no education, with too much time on their hands and nothing to look forward to but getting high and getting by. The vultures who take advantage of the uneducated and vulnerable have recognized an opportunity and have moved in for the quick money and, ultimately, for the kill, in the form of drug pushers and pain clinics.
I agree that programs to better educate our citizens as well as programs which work towards solutions to the increasing problem of drug use and abuse have been sorely lacking, but I do not agree that it too late to do something now. We need to acknowledge that drug and alcohol dependency, which is a chronic and terminal disease, is prevalent. We then need to understand that this disease is also treatable.
Reading, writing, math, history and science are very important, but we also need to teach our children that some of us are genetically susceptible to this disease, how to recognize it and successfully deal with it. The genetic susceptibility to substance dependency is not to be ashamed of any more than the genetic susceptibility or predisposition to any other disease, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease; however, we cannot prepare to combat that susceptibility if we pretend that no one in our own family might be in danger. Yes, lock the drug peddlers up and throw away the keys, but make sure to provide help to our people who are victims of substance dependency as well.
We must help them to become productive members of society; otherwise the underlying cause of the problem will not be solved. We also need to do a better job preparing our children for the working world. Shawnee State is a wonderful institution, but we all know that college is not for everyone. Parents and educators should teach students how important it is to make a good impression by dressing and speaking appropriately as well as how to interview and present oneself for a job. It should be stressed that it is important to go to work every day, not just when you are low on money, and to do the best job that you can for your employer. Bring back the work ethic of our grandparents.
County leaders can do their part to make Scioto County successful again by working to attract industry and jobs to the area. Use tax incentives if necessary. Our leaders in the past did not do enough to encourage industrial growth for our county. It should be obvious by now that Shawnee State Park Resort, Shawnee State University and Southern Ohio Medical Center cannot provide enough jobs for the diverse people of the area.
In the last 50 years, industrial plants have located outside of Scioto County — in Lawrence County to the east and near Manchester to the west — but not in Scioto County. With the mighty Ohio River and the railroad lines nearby there should be no reason for industry to settle elsewhere.
I am proud to see that a start has been made to address some of the issues of Scioto County. I hope that the momentum will continue. It is my wish that the area will someday be, once again, a busy, vibrant and safe place to live and raise a family.
Sherrie L. Shope