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Kindergarten children. How can we as a nation sink lower than that?
We must have national and state conversations that lead to reasonable restrictions on gun ownership and usage that will make us somewhat safer. One TV anchor said "it's hard to imagine such violence coming to such a peaceful small town." No, unfortunately it's not hard to imagine this any longer.
Recognize the Second Amendment and the right of sane, law-abiding citizens to own guns for self-defense or hunting. But ban high-capacity ammo clips and restore the ban on military-style assault weapons. Close the "gun show loophole" and Internet sales with no background checks. Find and support courageous politicians in both parties willing to stand up to the NRA the way others have stepped away from Grover Norquist and his "No New Taxes" pledge.
Kindergarten children. It's up to us.
— Steve Meyer
Melt them down
It is time for all of the police departments in every town to open up their doors and ask for people to voluntarily turn in their handguns and automatic weapons. No questions asked! Of course, any rifle or shotgun not being used for hunting will also be accepted.
These weapons may then be melted down, and memorials erected to the "Innocent Victims of Gun Violence" in every city park. Enough is enough.
— Jane Madden
After the fire, hope
I've just finished reading your article on the Waldo Canyon Fire ("Misfire," cover story, Dec. 12) and, to say the least, I'm impressed with the work you did and the manner in which you presented it in your paper. You have provided insights into a fire that has not had the review attention it deserves.
As a retired Forest Service employee who has spent more time than I'd like to remember fighting large fires — I was the Agency Administrator for a large, deadly fire with Rich Harvey, in fact — I find the information you present to be especially troubling. I, too, have had serious difficulty dealing with local governments in critical times, and see what happened in Colorado Springs to be another tragic case where local personnel failed to accept that federal forces have far more experience dealing with situations of this magnitude and should be trusted to perform their jobs.
It also points out the imperative to learn how to work within a coordinated emergency response system — the Incident Command System, or ICS. I cannot stress how important the use of ICS is to all parties involved. I'm thinking that if the higher-ups in the Colorado Springs Fire Department were skilled in the use of ICS, things would have been different.
Anyway, thanks for doing a great job. I hope good things come out of this tragic fire.
— Don Hall
The wrong priorities
Thank you for your reporting on the Waldo Canyon Fire. We live on Vantage Vista Drive in Mountain Shadows and we were evacuated on June 23. Though traumatic for us (we lost a full half of our neighborhood, and our place was damaged), we were so impressed by how the evacuation process was handled on that day, from the reverse 911 calls to the policemen leading the evacuation.
On the other hand, we were horrified to hear about how the evacuation north of Chuckwagon Road all went down. Our friends in that evacuation had the very same experiences as you describe in the story.
Personally, I was always troubled by this: Between June 23 and June 26, there was very little discussion regarding Mountain Shadows. When we watched the TV broadcasts, it was always Cedar Heights, Cedar Heights, Cedar Heights ... I remember yelling at the TV, "What about Mountain Shadows!" The information you presented seems to validate our perception that Mountain Shadows was not a priority.
I was also always troubled about the evacuation line drawn at Chuckwagon. It may have been a good administrative split, but if you drive through the area you can plainly see that any significant fire event south of that line would affect the north very quickly.
On the 26th, I was following the action on an iPhone Internet-based radio scanner. My heart was in my throat when I heard the call to make a stand at Wilson and Flying W. I will never forget that moment and the effect it had on me. I can't imagine the hell those first responders went through, and it breaks my heart to know they were working this fire without the absolute best support behind them. They pulled off a miracle regardless.
— Ernie Storti
Our true leaders
As (still) a resident of the lower part of Wilson Road, last week's article on the Waldo Canyon Fire sent shivers up my spine. We heard rumors that members of an out-of-state wildfire crew were instrumental in saving our house and the ones around it, and your article seems to confirm that rumor.
On that unforgettable Tuesday evening, we had friends and family contacting us from around the country, asking about our house. My answer was always the same: "I can't possibly imagine how any house will be left standing, based on what I'm seeing."
We were amazed when we saw the first aerial photographs, both for what was lost and what was saved. Your "Men in the 'box'" story documented well how lower Wilson was saved and the heroics of those who saved it. Yes, we have neighbors who lost everything, but not as many as expected.
There is an undercurrent in the primary article that seems depressingly familiar. In times of crises, our political leaders are the first to stand up and say that everything is under control when it isn't. They tell us that all the plans are in place and working when they clearly are not. And the initiative and efforts of dedicated individuals save the day once again.
Afterward, the politicians congratulate the leaders, and the recognition of individual efforts is perfunctory at best. I want to thank the Independent for shining what light you could on the political and leadership shortfalls, but most of all, I want to thank you for taking the extra effort to tell us about the true leaders — those who took it upon themselves to save the neighborhoods using the tools and knowledge that they possessed, regardless of what was happening above them in the chain of command.
— Niel Powers
I have read your "Misfire" story. Pretty complete. But it bothers me that Dr. Mary Harrow was center stage in the beginning, along with all the second-guessing.
You found a bitter victim in Harrow, who was willing to savage Mayor Bach. Too bad. I am sorry for Harrow's loss and all the other victims too, but the whole mess was one of those things that just happens, thankfully rarely.
Did the fighting go well? Depends on your perspective. My house did not burn, but it was in the fire's sights in the beginning. I live on the very eastern edge of Garden of the Gods. If the fire had raced through Cedar Heights like it did with Mountain Shadows, our home could have been lost. We took all the precautions we could, given the amount of time we had. We had signed up for the 911 reverse messages, and they worked. Not perfectly, but they did work.
We packed up and left. We worried, of course. But, I never gave a second thought to second-guessing those trying to control a once-in-a several-hundred-year event. The nearest the fire got to us was perhaps a mile. Close enough.
We often hear the expression that war is hell, and is chaotic. Do events always go as planned in a well-planned wartime event? No. I liken the fire to war. Could the commanders anticipate every event that was going to happen: the wind, weather, mistakes, failed communications, etc.? No, of course not.
Second-guessing is not constructive and it drives me nuts. We do the best we can with what we have. We all make mistakes, I sure have. But mostly those in charge did a good job. My opinion.
— Steve Sinn
The fires of 2013
Pam Zubeck's article, "Misfire," is astounding, disturbing and reflects the incompetence that permeates our society in these troubled times. I felt horror and anxiety reading it.
Can we ever feel safe again as our drought continues with no end in sight?
The only heroes in this are our firefighters who lived under unbearable conditions for a time.
Maybe there is another side to this story but it evades me.
Dreading Summer 2013, living in fear is what is left for many of us.
— Deda S. Miller
Shaky on fracking
I have Stage 4 COPD. My condition is a result of exposure to toxic chemical compounds where I worked. I do not want or need further exposures or exacerbations. My background at the time of exposure was in fossil fuels, renewable energy and conservation.
Exposure to silica dust has recently been added to the list of possible dangers. From Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council: Silica gets into the air at frack sites and creates huge plumes of dust. This dust, blowing in the air up to a mile away, can cause debilitating and deadly diseases. Though workers may wear protective breathing gear, those of us who live in the area will not be provided respirators.
There have already been documented cases of carcinogens and toxic metals in the air and methane contamination of drinking water, with faucet water becoming combustible. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency linked fracking to contaminated drinking water in Pavillion, Wyo. Surface water can be contaminated and cause fish kills.
The number of small earthquakes has also increased significantly. They are related to the injection of fracking wastewater into disposal wells. Even small earthquakes can cause infrastructure (e.g., road and bridge) damage.
Additionally, we must consider the possibility of contamination resulting from accidents during the transportation, storage and disposal of chemical injection fluids and waste materials.
It is absolutely essential for the health, safety and well-being of Colorado Springs' citizens that they be informed of the potential environmental and health impacts before fracking is allowed within our community.
— Judith A. Beasley
When the Sun fell
Your view that, "We [the Gazette-Telegraph news staff] won that war" between the Colorado Springs Sun and the Gazette-Telegraph, is not entirely accurate ("Can Anschutz take our daily back to the future?" Between the Lines, Dec. 5).
The decision to sell the Sun to Freedom Communications was simply a business deal. The Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) purchased the Sun from the Armstrong family for about $1.2 million in the late 1970s. The Armstrongs (Sen. William Armstrong and his father) had purchased the paper about 18 months earlier for about $600,000.
By all accounts, the Armstrongs made a good business deal.
OPUBCO invested more money in its purchase, buying the first piece of Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Effort (CURE) property (a block of land bounded by Cascade and Colorado avenues, Cucharras and Sahwatch streets) for about $3.25 a square foot. For reference, the last parcel where the Plaza of the Rockies was built went for about $15.25 a square foot.
When Freedom purchased OPUBCO's newspaper, it came after years of OPUBCO offers to purchase the Gazette. In 1985, Freedom offered to buy the Sun for $30 million or more. On the last day of February 1986, the Sun printed its last edition and Freedom purchased a circulation list it didn't need and a press it sent to one of its smaller newspapers. It did not get the property.
I am not certain that Freedom, which for years railed against the government but ran for protection to the government's bankruptcy court when its creditors wanted their money, made such a good business deal when it bought the Sun newspaper. And I am certain that the Gazette, its news staff, and the community did not "win" anything. It was a business transaction. It wasn't personal; it was just business.
— Stephen Bobbitt
Sun city editor 1980-86; Gazette-Telegraph reporter 1973-78
The big GPS elephant in the room is marijuana. With two states successfully legalizing it, other states will surely watch with an intent to follow. Marijuana legalization will tell us exactly where the people and the government are located with respect to each other. It's us, getting right up in their federal face.
No matter where you stand on the issue, this smoke will show us which way the winds of freedom are blowing.
— Steve Suhre
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