To the Point for 7/6/2006


SUNDAY’S TRAGEDY IN MADISON during the Madison Regatta is still ringing through the minds of everyone in Southeastern Indiana.

What was a glorious day on the river turned to tragedy in a matter of moments, as spectators sat frozen, watching a car run through a barricade and then through dozens of innocent people before plunging into the Ohio River.

Several were injured, some critically, while others who were not injured physically will carry the scars of what they saw on Sunday with them for many years to come.

There have been all sorts of reports regarding the specifics of the situation, but what we do know is that — for some reason — a vehicle driven by 18-year old Michael Bowen of Madison ended up in the Ohio River as emergency workers and volunteers scrambled to help those who were injured, as well as Michael Bowen.

It was a horrifying end to what was a beautiful, sunny day — and no matter what the outcome of the police investigation is, it will be a day that will impact both Madison and its hydroplane race into the future.

In April of 1968, the city of Richmond, Indiana, which is about eight miles from where I grew up, exploded. A ruptured gas line was ignited, and five blocks of Main Street went from a bustling retail center to piles of bricks and steel.

When it was through, 41 people were dead and more than 100 others were injured — and the city of Richmond and its residents were never the same again.

But what came out of that day in 1968, and what came out of Madison on Sunday, was the spirit of community that sprang forth at a time when it was needed the most.

Look at the photos taken immediately after the accident. They show people who, just moments before, were just “regular folk”, sitting on the riverbank in anticipation of the final heat of the Indiana Governor’s Cup Regatta.

Moments later, in the blink of an eye, they were heroes.

Men and women jumped into the water to help save people that they didn’t even know. People came to the aid of those who were injured on the riverbank. People gave first aid and comfort to those who were in the midst of unthinkable tragedy.

They even went out into the river to the vehicle that had caused all of the commotion — checking on Michael Bowen and the passenger in his car.

They helped frightened parents find their children. They ran for water and blankets and whatever else was needed.

What was moments before a riverbank filled with strangers suddenly came together as a community. Such things as race and gender and economic levels were suddenly not as important as making sure that someone was there to provide aid and comfort at a time when someone needed it the most.

All of us with forever remember the 2006 Regatta for this horrible event — and we well should. But we should also remember it for the heroic efforts of a collection of human beings who went above and beyond in order to help their fellow man.