We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on
— Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” 1989
So the story goes that Billy Joel was having a heated conversation with a person half his age in the late 1980s. The young man was complaining about how messed up the world was. Joel responded with “I thought the same thing when I was your age.” His counterpart fired back with “but you grew up in the 1950s. Nothing happened back then.”
“Wait a minute, didn’t you hear of Korea, the Hungarian freedom fighters or the Suez Crisis?” And so the song practically wrote itself.
The first couch burnt in Morgantown didn’t happen in the early morning hours of Oct. 7 following West Virginia University’s win over Texas. Nope. That fire’s been burning since the world’s been turning.
Do you remember the 2003 fall football season? Do you remember the violence that erupted at Mountaineer Field after a victory over Virginia Tech when students pulled down the goal post and State Police started macing the crowd for control?
There’s this one image that I have stuck in my mind from a front-page picture in a local newspaper from the aftermath of that victory over Virginia Tech. The boot of an officer is stepping on the side of the head of a student who has been maced, and he is grimacing in pain from the pressure and burning of the eyes.
I don’t know what the kid was doing, and I’m pretty sure the trooper was responding to an out-of-control mob in the way he was trained. I’ve never judged either side — the face or the boot. It always made me feel so so that it had to come to that.
I was also in Sunnyside that night — not partying, but covering the post-game mayhem. I had a partner, but we split up to do interviews. Several minutes into it, when I realized I was the only sober person standing in the middle of a drunk mob and one such drunk person started questioning whether I was a “narc” because I was scribbling notes on a little pad, I was afraid. No, I panicked. I jotted down a few more things and then radioed my partner that I was heading back to my car.
Why? Because I’ve read enough stories and have seen enough movies to know what happens when a mob takes over. Individuals lose their own sense of values and behave as one unit. It’s called the “mob mentality” and I felt it nine years ago in Sunnyside.
And reading reports after this year’s Oct. 6 game made me remember how frightening it was to be in Sunnyside that night. Again, I was sad that it had to come to this. But, quite frankly, I was angry that emergency responders were attacked. I was angry that four responders had to be treated at the hospital after being hit by thrown debris. I was angry students were throwing bottles, bricks and lit firecrackers at firefighters trying to put out the 40-plus fires.
Lit firecrackers? Are you kidding me?
How long will it be before all of Sunnyside goes up in flames, because I’m pretty sure the code compliance in housing there is either sub par or barely passing with clever use of duct tape and rebar. How long will it be before an officer or firefighter is seriously injured? How long will it be before someone is shot or killed?
So the university is cracking down hard on student violators — as they should. And city officials have made cryptic threats about heavy-handed response to anyone who gets out of control during post-game celebrations.
The question is will it put out the fire or will it burn on and on and on and on.
So we asked that question of our readers who log on each week to www.timeswv.com to vote in our weekly online poll question. We asked “Do you believe crowd control will continue to be an issue this football season after more than 40 fires and riotous behavior following WVU’s win over Texas?”
And here’s what you had to say:
• No — Threats from the schools administration and city officials will keep the students on their best behavior for a while —10.81 percent.
• Maybe — There are going to be even larger crowds as the “curious” are drawn to the student neighborhood postgame — 17.57 percent.
• Yes — Firefighters and police officers are never going to be able to tame Sunnyside— 71.62 percent.
And that’s sad.
This week, let’s talk about another sad Morgantown event. A student athletic trainer tweeted an obviously racist message about the presidential election, which has created quite the buzz about freedom of speech and social media for employees of the public sector. What are your thoughts on the issue?
Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.
We didn’t start the fire
Being observant, reporting suspicions can make difference for hurting children
If a child is hurting, we wouldn’t hesitate to help.
Or would we?
In a five-year span, 22,830 children were victims of some type of neglect or abuse in West Virginia. That’s an overwhelming number to think about.
Gee makes major impact and earns another term as WVU president
Let’s imagine that a graduate from West Virginia University in the early 1980s, when E. Gordon Gee was president, came back to get an extra degree now and couldn’t believe that E. Gordon Gee is “still” the president of WVU.
Effort to encourage purchase of goods produced in U.S. deserves support
The concept of encouraging the purchase of American-made products is certainly not new.
On the federal level, the Buy American Act was passed in 1933 by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover. It required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases.
‘Stop Meth, Not Meds’ backed by readers
In West Virginia, there is something referred to as “stop-sale technology” that prevents a person from going to more than one pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter medication that contains the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant.
It’s not an issue of stuffy noses that lawmakers were worried about when they created the system.
Even small steps play part in critical mission to reduce childhood obesity
Just two years ago, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, meaning they had excess body weight based on their height.
It’s a troubling statistic, and one that health officials have worked diligently to reverse.
Cutting-edge heart procedure at Mon General is saving lives
“I used to think I wouldn’t live to be 50. Well, I made it to 50 and then some,” Pearl Walls said.
Walls is likely alive today and able to tell her story to the Times West Virginian because of a cutting-edge procedure performed at Monongalia General Hospital — a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), which was only approved for use by the FDA in 2011.
Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ many works, magic words
You know his words.
You know them well.
Funds donated to United Way make community healthier, happier, safer place
A dollar you give to the United Way of Marion County could feed a hungry family.
That dollar could protect a woman and her children from an abuser.
Or the dollar could mean that a family receives credit counseling to lift them out of overwhelming debt.
It could fund Scouting programs, where boys and girls learn lifelong lessons.
Project Launchpad puts critical concept of diversifying state economy into play
The case for diversifying the state of West Virginia’s economy is past the point of debate.
While it is our hope that coal can continue to have a role in our nation’s power-generating matrix, we’ve learned our lesson about over-dependence on a single industry. Particularly being overly dependent on an industry that, in the eyes of federal regulators, is out of fashion.
Legal concealed carry and open government must both be preserved
We’re a strong supporter of the right of West Virginians to legally and responsibly own and use firearms.
That includes the ability to obtain a state license to carry a concealed deadly weapon (pistols or revolvers). That process involves applying to the county sheriff, paying a $75 fee and completing an application, as prepared by the superintendent of the West Virginia State Police, in writing.
- More Opinion Headlines
- Being observant, reporting suspicions can make difference for hurting children