February 19, 2009 - 12:05 AM
I suppose the question was inevitable. It surfaced, briefly, in the heat of coverage planning after the crash of Flight 3407. It was simply this: "Where does this crash rank, among all the news stories we've covered?"
The question vanished almost as quickly, lost in the crush of an all-out coverage effort and the need to tell THIS story right now, in the right words, in the right way. That's no small challenge.
But I think the question's worth revisiting, even if it's not that earthshaking. And because there are only seven or eight journalists here who have been in this newsroom longer than I have, I thought I'd do the revisiting. So here's my personal take on the top three dozen news events (an arbitrary number) that local newspapers have covered (the asterisks simply mark those other papers covered before The News was founded).
It's a subjective list, obviously, so it's open to suggestions. What do you think should be added? Excluded? Shuffled to a different rank? Consider this a draft list, with a revision possibly to be posted or published later, just for the heck of it.
Oh, and by the way, here's my answer to the original question: I think it ranks about 10th. And I think the top local news story of all time, hereabouts, was a good-news story on a list that's pretty heavy in tragedy. See what you think.
TOP NEWS EVENTS IN THE BUFFALO AREA:
1. Opening of the Erie Canal (Oct. 26, 1825) *
2. British burn Buffalo (Dec. 30, 1813) *
3. President McKinley assassinated (Sept. 6, 1901)
4. Cleveland Hill school fire (11 die, 19 hurt, March 31, 1954)
5. Great Storm of 1844 (about 200 drown in floods, Oct. 18, 1844) *
6. Blizzard of '77 (Jan. 28, 1977)
7. Attica prison uprising (9 hostages and 28 inmates die, Sept. 9-13, 1971)
8. Paddlewheeler Erie burns off Dunkirk (more than 175 die, Aug. 9, 1841)*
9. .22-Caliber Killer (September, 1980)
10. Flight 3407 (50 die, Feb. 12, 2009)
11. The "Angola Horror" train wreck (about 50 die, Dec. 18, 1868) *
12. Honeymoon bridge collapse (Jan. 27, 1938)
13. East Side propane blast (5 firefighters, 2 others killed, Dec. 27, 1983)
14. Father Baker's funeral draws 25,000 (Aug. 3, 1936)
15. Civil rights riots (June 29, 1967)
16. Canal District fire (10 blocks burn, 700-800 homeless, Sept. 26, 1851) *
17. Love Canal (evacuated Aug. 4, 1978)
18. Pan-American Exposition dedicated (May 20, 1901)
19. Cholera epidemic of 1832 (hundreds die in summer of 1832) *
20. Electricity transmitted from Niagara Falls to Buffalo (Nov. 14, 1896)
21. Bike Path Killer/Delaware Park Rapist (2006)
22. Freighter-gasoline barge collision and fire (11 die, Oct. 29, 1951)
23. Tim McVeigh/Oklahoma City bombing (arrest April 22, 1995)
24. Barnett Slepian/James Kopp abortion-related murder case (Oct. 23, 1998)
25. Grover Cleveland elected president (Nov. 5, 1884)
26. City schools desegregation (1972-1976)
27. Schoellkopf power plant collapses (June 7, 1956)
28. Marchand murder case (artist and model scandal, March 7, 1931)
29. Cheryl Jolls kidnapping case (1961)
30. Buffalo Harbor opens (April 13, 1822) *
31. Lackawanna Six (2002)
32, Bucky Phillips manhunt (2006)
33. Michigan Avenue bridge destroyed by drifting freighter (Jan. 21, 1959)
34. Influenza epidemic (1918)
35. Richard Long killing involves off-duty police (1977)
36. Canadiana riots (May 30, 1956)
Other possibilities might include the domed stadium controversy, Millard Fillmore's election as president, Lafayette’s visit, Teddy Roosevelt's Inauguration as separate from McKinley's assassination, the St.Patrick’s Day Storm of 1936, Hurricane Agnes flooding the Southern Tier in 1972, the 19th century Eagle Hotel fire, the ice storm of 1976, passage of the Lincoln funeral train, West Valley, a tragic Grand Island dock collapse, the October Surprise storm, Buffalo's dock riots in 1884, Vietnam war protests at UB, etc. etc. etc.
And, of course, there's always the chance that I missed something entirely, even though I've been here for nearly four decades now. Why, I remember the time . . .