Once again, I feel for the West Noble community.
This past week, people on the west side of the county suffered another tragedy with the news that an alleged drunk driver struck longtime West Noble cross country coach Chuck Schlemmer, causing life-threatening injuries.
As the days went on, the prognosis turned out poor, with the family announcing its intention to take him off life support due to an irreversible brain injury. Schlemmer died Wednesday evening with his family at his side.
It’s just another in a string of tragedies that have hit West Noble in recent history. One student died after being accidentally electrocuted while on vacation in Mexico, a senior was killed in a car crash, and two girls and their father drowned after their vehicle slid on ice into the Elkhart River earlier this year.
It’s been a hard stretch for West Noble, one that’s been sad for us to cover too.
Covering tragedies like Schlemmer’s accident are part of the job here at the newspaper, but certainly not a fun part of it. We strive to walk the line between being empathetic and respectful of a victim’s family and friends, while also being informative to the community at large and working to strike down disinformation that inevitably pops up.
Some people would argue that these kind of incidents are private business and that the media shouldn’t be broadcasting it out there. But what I think, as we’ve seen this past week with Coach Schlemmer, is that these incidents resonate deeply with the community.
From the hundreds of comments, social media shares and popup memorials around the community, it’s instantly visible that Coach Schlemmer made a deep impact on countless lives in the West Noble community. Great teachers, coaches, community figures have that impact. They become almost like family to so many people outside their immediate blood relatives.
So in these times of tragedy, we here at the newspaper go to work. We try to gather and report the facts of what’s happening. We cover the criminal side of it like any other major incident. And we aim to highlight, remember and explain the depth and breadth of the impact the person had on those around them.
As we often find out, these community figures share a piece of themselves with more than just their spouses, children, grandchildren and so on.
I send out my best wishes in this difficult time to the Schlemmer family. I hope that me doing my job isn’t causing any more heartache and, maybe, will bring some comfort in the days ahead.
And I feel for the West Noble community at large. I hope that this tragedy is the last one for a long while. The school, its staff, students and families have suffered far too much loss in too short a time.