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Individual, club step up to help heroes

November 18, 1999

The plight of two men local men who incurred $700 worth of medical bills their health insurance wouldn't cover when they entered a burning Hagerstown apartment may be closer to a solution today. An anonymous citizen and a local service club are considering kicking in all or part of the bills owed by Kevin Pose and Dave Riggleman.

Pose and Riggleman were injured on March 20, after they ran into a building where a child playing with matches had apparently set a mattress on fire. They persuaded the family to leave, then hauled the burning mattress out of the building.

Editorially, The Herald-Mail took the same position as city officials: This was a brave act, certainly, but paying the men's bills with city funds might set an unwise precedent. Or worse, encourage untrained personnel to get involved at fire scenes. It would be better, we suggested, if a private citizen or service club picked up the bill.

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Not long after that editorial appeared, I heard from a private citizen who wants to remain anonymous, but who would like to help out.

"It's just great to have people like that in the community. They just wanted to help, and I'd like those guys to be walking by my house if it caught on fire," he said.

The incident reminded him of the day when a correctional officer on his way to work stopped to tell him he'd accidentally left the keys to his car hanging in the lock of the auto's trunk.

"Somebody could have just taken my car if he hadn't stopped, and I like it that there are people like that in our community, and that's my way of staying thanks," he said.

Though he's not a wealthy man, the donor said that he would cover the entire $700 bill, or split it with the service club, if that's what the group wanted to do.

I met with representatives of the service club Wednesday morning to give them what details I had. Their concern is that at this time of year, so many are seeking funds that they must reserve help for the neediest cases. They promised to report to their board and get back to me.

Pose, who received first-degree burns when he dragged out the burning mattress, said he would appreciate anything anyone did, because he felt it should be taken care of as a matter of principle because of the risk he and his friend took.

"Anybody in his right mind would have done it. After all, there were kids in the building. And I just didn't have $700 to shell out to the hospital," Pose said.

Riggleman couldn't be reached for comment, but a Nov. 9 story said he had been ordered to appear in court over the unpaid bill on Nov. 22. If the powers that be will just be patient, we may be able to get the hospital its money, and these two fellows the credit that they're due.

If anyone else - an individual or an organization - wants to help, please contact me at (301) 733-5131, ext. 7622, or by e-mail at bobm@herald-mail.com.




Edward J. James of Hancock, who entered our last letter-writing contest, has written to say he is unhappy that I extended the deadline for the "Newspaper of the Future" contest after receiving only two entries. He writes:

"On the Thursday editorial page was Bob Maginnis at his best...changing the rules as we go. Look Bob, you announced a 'contest' for the 'opinion of readers.' You didn't say that we had to guess what your opinion was.

"Two concerned readers replied in the allotted time. Decide on a winner and move on.

"But no. The readers didn't say what Bob wanted said so now the deadline will be extended and Bob will urge some of his friends to write in and say what he wants to hear so he can feel good and reward them. Bob, why not just write the winning opinion yourself under a pen name and reward yourself?

"This is how the liberal media and the liberal Herald-mail does its work daily. Pulitzer must be ashamed at what you liberals have done to 'freedom of the press.' "

As regular readers of this column know, I've often extended contest deadlines to solicit greater reader participation. I'm not sure how it harms anyone if I ask for more input instead of settling for less, but when I'm paying the prize out of pocket, I get to make up the rules.

And in reviewing the Oct. 21 contest solicitation, I find that I said that the winner would be announced Nov. 4, "unless I decide to extend the deadline."

Consider it extended until Nov. 25. Tell me, in 100 words or less, what you'd like in the Newspaper of the Future. Send entries to Bob Maginnis The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21740, or e-mail them to bobm@herald-mail.com.

And as a footnote, yes, Mr. James, I have asked acquaintances, local officials and civic activists to write on a variety of topics. But while many have promised, few have delivered, even when it would aid their causes to do so. If you have the magic formula for getting more people to write, please share it with me.




Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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