Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Richard Jewell- Unsung HERO At the 1996 Summer Olympics
The opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics will be this Friday, August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Does anybody remember where the summer games were held in 1996? They were right here in Atlanta, Georgia. Last week, the TV newscasts were interviewing several of those involved with getting the games here, lauding the fact that it was 20 years ago. You know how it goes, quite a lot of praise and accolades for them all. I have nothing against the Olympics or those who were able to pull this off for the city of Atlanta but I couldn't help but notice that there was very little mention of the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. One woman died when the pipebomb went off and a reporter died from a heart attack. There were 111 injuries. Much was made of the fact that the head of the Olympic Committee did not call the Atlanta games, "the best ever", which he would usually say after the end of the Olympics. I remember that someone wrote to the newspaper, "In the best ever Olympics, no one would die."
Not only was very little said about the bombing but I also did not hear one word about Richard Jewell. (I have written of him before, if you remember.) Richard Jewell was the security guard who observed the pipebomb under a bench and alerted the authorities and steered people away from the area, most certainly saving many lives. At first, he was proclaimed a hero but after three days, he was then suspected as being the bomber. Later, it was proven that it was an anti-government miltant who had planted the bomb but by that time, Mr. Jewell's life was never the same. He was hounded by the press and was a running joke on The Tonight Show, among others. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution ran a headline saying that he "fit the profile" of a lone bomber. Investigated by the FBI, he was finally cleared. There were lawsuits filed and I believe that he had several settlements from several news agencies but I can tell you , his life was never the same. I met Richard Jewell and his lawyer, Lin Wood in the late 1990's. They both spoke at a Rotary meeting that I was invited to attend. I said to Mr. Jewell that I was sorry for all that he had gone through. When I looked into his eyes, I could see the great pain that was there. He died in 2007. He was only 44 years old.
It seems to me that the news reports from last week could have mentioned the name "Richard Jewell". Shame on them. They did not, so I am saying it to you here. He was at least called a hero in the obituaries that I have read about him. The New York Times had a nice one and you may read it here.