Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Town Without Pity

The Christmas season brings friends and families together, but not in Snohomish, Washington, where an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes how an entire town has abandoned, ignored, or threatened 16-year-old Brett Karch. His offense was having the gall to nearly lose his leg when a ceremonial cannon malfunctioned at a Snohomish High School football game.

From the article:
According to Karch's medical records, security guards notified police after Karch received disturbing phone calls and visits from parents and students, some of whom threatened to "break his other leg" or worse, if he didn't keep quiet about the accident. Hospital staff had to move him to a secure room where they monitored visitors.

Callers and visitors told Karch they would "make sure his other leg got blown off," and that "there would be retaliation" if the family cooperated in an investigation that could end the cannon tradition, said Mary Bissel, Karch's mother. "That's when I kind of got a little upset," Karch said.

The threats also included mention the family would be "banned from the town," Bissell said. She's been warned not to talk to a lawyer, or reporters.
For the record, the Karch family has retained an attorney, mainly for help wading through legal forms. She has not sued -- not yet.

Karch is a member of the ROTC. He knows how to pack a cannon, and a retired Marine supervised the preparations. As far as we know, Karch did nothing wrong, save for expecting a little sympathy. One get-well card suggested students were more concerned about the destroyed cannon than Karch's mangled leg:
"Football wouldn't be the same without the big boom at kickoff," wrote one student in a get-well card.
Even as Karch recovers, well-wishers are hard to find.
Since his discharge from the hospital on Oct. 23, Karch has had only three visitors -- two of them [from the ROTC]. And despite invitations to school friends, not a single person other than family attended his 16th birthday celebration in November, Bissell said.
No doubt Karch has wondered at times why that cannon didn't kill him outright instead of leaving him in loneliness. But he has no time to mourn.
The persistent hostility, and loss of friendships, make him sad, but he's trying not to dwell on it.

He's working hard during weekly physical and occupational therapy sessions, hoping to regain enough function to qualify for the military.
Surely Karch's soon-to-be comrades in the military will give him the sense of respect and honor. He's earned a Purple Heart even before stepping on the battlefield, unlike the football field where Snohomish High School played on even as Karch was carried off in an ambulance.

If he had died instantly, would they have even called a time-out?

At least God and your family love you, Brett, even if nobody else does.

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