01 November 2007

On the passing of Richard Jewell

    All I did was my job. I did what I was trained to do.
      Richard Jewell
      23 July 2006

Ten years later, Richard Jewell remained reluctant to take credit for the lives he undoubtedly saved when he spotted an unattended backpack that contained a bomb. He was more worried about how the ensuing investigation affected his mother than himself. His complaint about the intense media focus on him was that it detracted from coverage athletes who dedicated their lives to competing for their homeland in the Olympics. His only regret was there were not five more minutes in which the life of victim Alice Hawthorne might have been saved.

In the months and years that followed the Atlanta Olympics bombing, Richard Jewell wasn't in in the news very much. I thought we might hear about him when Eric Rudolf was identified as the the bomber in 2005. I posted what little I found in these two posts. In July 2006, the ten year anniversary of the bombing did prompt several stories and the AP interview I've linked to. Finally, in August 2006, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue presented Jewell with a commendation for his actions that day. "He didn't seek this today," the Governor said, "we sought him out because I think it’s the right thing to do." It was, and it was ten years overdue.

Richard Jewell died in August. I was on vacation, and I missed the stories in the news. I first heard about it from a comment on one of my 2005 posts. News reports of his passing came with headlines like: Vindicated Olympic Park bombing suspect Richard Jewell dies (CNN) and Olympics bombing figure Richard Jewell dies (AP). Jewell said in the AP interview, "I dare say more people know I was called a suspect than know I was the one who found the package," and headlines like these bear that out. They speak more to his status as suspect, and not the lives he saved that day.

Only one headline I saw, (New York Times) got it right:

Richard Jewell, 44, Hero of Atlanta Attack, Dies

When he died, Richard Jewell was Meriwether County sheriff’s deputy, and is survived by his wife and by his mother.

No comments: