News and Tribune

January 10, 2014

NASH: Tragedy in the news

Local columnist

— Last weekend a trio of news stories caught my eye. I assume that the three stories caught the eye of nearly everyone in the metropolitan area since we were all stuck inside with the anticipation of yet another “Storm of the Century.”

It seems that every time that a local meteorologist just mentions the word snow, the supermarkets become overrun with people. Why in the world do so many people think they will be stuck in their houses without bread, milk and eggs? The stampede is so out of hand sometimes, people have gone as far as to ask if Kroger is the official sponsor of these forecasts.

 We have had a handful of bad storms in my lifetime, but have never been homebound for more than a single day. If I scrounged hard I could probably sustain my family on the food in my cupboard for at least a week.  

It wouldn’t have been so bad around here if some of the forecasted snow had actually fallen. I had heard that we were expecting from one to four inches of snow at one point and all that we saw at my house was a light dusting. I waited and waited for it to start coming down but the only thing that fell from the sky was a lot of rain. I thought with the technology at hand they could better predict what would actually happen. It seems like now they just give the worst case scenario and predict doom and gloom.

The prediction that the temperatures would plummet to levels rarely seen in this part of the world did pan out so I guess the weatherman can keep his job for another season. I know that I can go another 40 years without hearing the term “Polar Vortex” again.

The weather forecast and the snow never falling could have been the story of the weekend until the University of Texas started looking for a new football coach. It seems the weatherman was off the hook as social media was now abuzz with the news that Charlie Strong, who had led the University of Louisville for the past  four seasons, was a candidate.

For several hours on Saturday the status of the coach was unknown as Texas media outlets were announcing his acceptance of the job while Louisville media were claiming that nothing was for sure. It turned out that Coach Strong was waiting to make anything official until he had a chance to talk to his boss face to face.  Now Tom Jurich was taking the first available flight back to Louisville to hear the news first hand that he had to once again find a new coach.

The weather and the departure of the football coach received much more media time than the third story. Easily more screen time, column inches or web page hits were attributed to those two things that dominated the news cycle for a variety of reasons. I admit that they were interesting to me, but there was what I considered a bigger story that  was of more importance.

Early Saturday morning I woke up to a news alert on my phone about a house fire in New Albany. A couple of hours later the story changed to a fire resulting in the death of three  young children and the severe injury of another. It was a tragic story of a family torn apart in what turned out to be a preventable accident.

The fire was reported to have started by combustible material too close to a space heater. The very next day an apartment fire was reported in Clarksville for the same reason. This time of year, when the temperatures fall to dangerous levels you hear of these kind of things happening.

 I never expected something like this could happen a few blocks from where I grew up to kids that attend the same elementary school where I had gone. Nothing can prepare you for something like this.

I understand that there was very little to report as the news programs planned their newscast. The fire and deaths along with a few interviews with some neighbors didn’t seem like enough time for such a tragedy. It was virtually no time at all compared to the time spent on the snow that didn’t fall and a football coach.

I wish Charlie Strong the best for his future as the coach of the Longhorns. You have swiftly reached the pinnacle of your career and I hope it works out for you. Louisville has quickly selected his successor and the merits of that decision will be debated at least until he beats Kentucky.

To all the meteorologists that do their best to keep people safe from foul weather I say better luck next time. You blew it for the “Snowpocalypse” 2014 but we still have a couple of months of winter left for you to redeem yourself. Northern Indiana might be digging out for some time but for now Louisville metro is all safe.

To the family and friends of the tragic fire, your story needs to be remembered long after this winter is over. Those little lives lost too soon are more than any family should have to endure. I could not fathom what it would be like to lose a child so small, especially with one still in so much pain. May your healing be quick and your tragedy never forgotten.

— Matthew Nash can be reached at