Saturday, March 6, 2010

This is how my hometown makes national news

It's rare that my hometown of Hollister, California ever makes the national news. The local news, yes: most recently for rape trials, budget cuts, and teacher layoffs.  Chances are until this past Thursday,  if you're not from Hollister (or anywhere else in California), you've probably never heard of Hollister.  Either that or you've only seen bits and pieces of this rural town on national news, in newspapers or even on your own local newscasts.  A family friend who grew up in Hollister but was living in Hawaii in 1989 (he's been back in Hollister since about 1998) recalled turning on his TV on October 17 of that year and seeing glimpses of his hometown on the news.  It was then that he learned of the Loma Prieta earthquake on that date.  Hollister was among the hardest-hit communities, along with much of the San Francisco area. And until 2005, Hollister held the annual Motorcycle Rally during Fourth of July weekend.  Bikers from all over the country and even the world turned out for these events.  Although the last official rally was almost five years ago, bikers have continued to turn out in Hollister on July 4 weekend in the years since.  If anything, events like these are what most people outside of California have ever heard about this town.   Until now.  

While watching NBC's Thursday night line up, the anchor from KSBW in nearby Salinas broke the news during the commercials.  I was more than shocked to learn that the person who had drawn a gun at the Pentagon was from my hometown.   Later on, she gave the guy's name: John Patrick Bedell.  I had not seen or even thought of this guy in years.  He was two years behind me in school.   I did not get to watch the channel's 11PM newscast since I was asleep by then, but plenty more news came the next day.  After work yesterday, I stopped at the county library, which is next to the county courthouse (Hollister is the county seat for San Benito County), and spotted a news van from KSBW parked across the street.   Several of my Facebook friends who grew up in Hollister wrote about the situation on their status updates.  I then let all my Twitter followers know that I went to high school with the Pentagon Shooter.  That night it was the top story on NBC Nightly News.  Curtis Hill, the current sheriff of San Benito County, was on Nightly News.  I don't think anyone from our town or county has ever been on a national news program.  KSBW then  covered the story on their 6PM newscast.  And at 10PM,  Salinas Fox station KBCA covered the story, showing pictures of Bedell in the San Benito High School yearbook from the 1988-1989 school year. (Bedell was then a sophomore).   A fellow graduate of San Benito High--now a journalism teacher at the high school and a columnist for the local paper The Pinnacle--wrote about the story in his blog yesterday.   More is expected to be in Hollister's two local papers next week.   And the shooting and the shooter made the front page of today's edition of the San Francisco Chronicle--to which I have been a subscriber for years and in which have rarely seen my town mentioned.  This kind of breaking news rarely occurs in this rural and often quite California town.

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