Remembering the FRG Train Accident/20 years

I picked up the Tribune today and read the tragedy that took place October 25th 1995—- the Fox River Grove train accident. I was an English teacher at Cary-Grove High School. That day I had a substitute because we were putting on the play, THE HOBBIT. It was going to be a day time play for Senior Citizens. The official opening for the public would be that coming Friday.

But then I heard about the train accident. I immediately went to the office to see how I could help concerned parents connect with their children. It was a day of heavy grief and much prayer.

I found out that two of my students had died in the crash and one was seriously injured.  Stephanie Fulham was a student in my class and had a small part in the school play. I went to her funeral and gave her parents the Hobbit costume she would have worn.  I remember her as a sweet, blonde-haired, petite student. We all loved her.

Susana Guzman was in my speech class. She had just given a wonderful speech on her hero, Selena, a Mexican singer who had been killed. Susana was also petite with long curly brown hair and a beautiful smile.

I talked to the mother of one of my students. Her son was in my class and we were having a test that day. He told his mother to pray for him because he was going to have a test in my class that day. Little did he know the test he would have to endure—–healing and recuperating from a train accident. His twin brother was also injured.

We must have had 70 counselors in the Media Center that week, but most students chose to stay in their classrooms. There was no separation between school and God.  We provided poster boards for the students and they wrote out their prayers and messages for the families. Literature took on new meaning.

The foyer of the school’s front lobby was filled with flowers from as far away as Japan. We were a grieving school for a long time. We had a special ceremony where we learned about the building of the Friendship Circle. Seven white doves were let go to symbolize the passing of seven students.  There has always been something special about Cary-Grove High School. We experienced deep pain and we understood grief. There was a closeness and a caring for students that I have not seen elsewhere.  We rescheduled the play, THE HOBBIT, for December and dedicated it to Stephanie Fulham.


An Unusual Fishing Venture


The crystal clear water of Devil’s Lake is surrounded by high bluffs that are magnets to hikers and rock climbers alike.   It’s an unusual hidden jewel in the Midwest.   We were very fortunate to get a camp site on such a picture perfect weekend.   Luckily we got our tent up in time to watch the birds fly over the breathtaking pink and purple sunset. We looked forward to Lola and Thom’s arrival so that the hiking, biking and most importantly laughing around the campfire could begin.

Then I heard a sound that changed everything, “Bang”.

Larry, my husband, shut the door of our 2000 Windstar Ford Van and I heard him gasp in shock.

“Oh rats,” he said, “I thought I was unlocking it, not locking it. I left the keys in the car.”

Sure enough, there they were laid out between the seats to rest like a silver trout between two pond cup holders.   Our spare key tucked under the right wheel had long since disappeared.

I thought of less technical days when opening a locked vehicle was so much easier. I once taught ESL classes at a synagogue when a student from India came to class frantic because he had locked his keys in his car. I promptly marched into the synagogue kitchen and retrieved a handy black spatula and proceeded to squeeze it through the rubber between the windows. “Voila,” the car opened.

Another time Larry locked the keys in our Ford station wagon, and a group of foster teenagers Larry invited camping with us opened it with a coat hanger.

“We learned this trick in our juvie days,” they laughed.

But with computerization, the days of opening cars with a spatula or coat hanger are over.

Seeing myself as an adequate problem solver, I walked around the van a couple of times and observed one glimmer of hope. The back vent window was opened about two inches. I also noticed a group of male campers toasting their feet around a cozy campfire after a fruitless day of fishing.

Having given up hope, Larry was already planning on borrowing Lola and Thom’s car when they arrived to drive to our home almost three hours away to retrieve our second set of keys. I grimaced at the thought of a six hour unnecessary trip.   What a way to ruin a beautiful weekend!

Boldly walking up to the fishermen, I said, “Do any of you have ideas about how to retrieve our captured keys from a locked van. The back side vent window is open about two inches.”

“Well, we have a fishing pole and lure,” the camper thoughtfully replied. “But the fishing pole is not long enough to reach from the back of the van to the front where your keys are located. Scratching his head, he said, “We could attach it to something, but what?”

“We could duct tape the lure to my fiberglass tent pole,” Larry piped in with renewed hope.

The ideas continued to swirl around from one camper to the next as our plan unfolded. We tied a treble hook to a twelve inch long piece of fishing line which we duct taped to the end of Larry’s tent pole. Then we turned the pole to wind the line around the tent pole. Where would mankind be without duct tape?  “Move over Rover!” Duct tape is now modern man’s best friend.   Larry and the fishermen got more excited by the minute as they continued to pool their ideas together.

“What have we here,” I contemplated. “It’s a near impossible venture, at least a challenge and men with nothing better to do? It’s male bonding at its best. MacGyver would be proud of them.”

Larry, our self-appointed fisherman, assigned us our positions as we prepared to go for the keys. Fishing for car keys—- How absurd was that! My job was to stand by the side of the van with a flashlight while Larry blindly and painstakingly fished his way through the back vent window to the front of the vehicle. He manipulated the fishing rod up and down with help from the campers.

Being the only one who could see clearly, I gave the directions about how to move the pole, “Slightly to the right, Honey.”   “Now move it to the left, and down a bit.”

We were all very tense and focused as we engaged in our most unusual fishing venture. As the typical fishermen’s wife, I really didn’t have much hope for its success.   I’ve heard enough fishing stories in the past. But I watched in wonderment as these men maneuvered the pole until it finally hovered over the steel fish—our keys.

“How far above the keys am I,” Larry asked. “How much line should I unravel?”

I watched the baiting lure make its first downcast attempt about an inch shy of the capture.

“Try again, Lar— this time more to the right,” I nervously stated.

He lowered the hook and unwound the line. After a couple more tries, I watched in disbelief as the magical silver fish flickering in the moonlight was being drawn up into thin air.   My heart raced and my stomach did summersaults as they worked the pole backwards.

The fishermen were delighted at the capture, but they didn’t see what I saw—— the entanglements which included—tossed clothing, camping supplies, and the velour seats that could so easily ensnare our coveted prize. Touch anything and we’re cooked.   I continued directing the blind fishermen to move the pole in such a manner as to avoid entrapment. With a sense of empowerment, I was the Siren commanding my ship of male servants who were painstakingly following my directions. I relished in the fleeting moment.   In sheer delight, I saw the keys within inches of the vent window. We were all breathless with excitement. Handing the flash light to one of the fishermen, I wedged my tiny fist through the vent window capturing our trophy prize.

We jumped up and down in disbelief— and our shouts of triumph could be heard throughout the campground. Where was America’s Funniest Home Videos when we needed them? Did we really fish for keys?? Larry, redeeming himself, proved it be an excellent fisherman, but not without his team and sheer luck.

Lola and Thom pulled up and wondered what was causing all the commotion. They were not surprised to hear that Larry had locked the keys in the van. He is known for creating problems that take fleets of fishermen to solve.   We all huddled around the inviting campfire keeping Larry far away from the keys. Yes, it was going to be a weekend to remember.

Stay tuned in for the following chapter on solving another impossible van situation.





Why Visit Brown County State Park in Indiana

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Brown County State Park in Nashville, IN

After we finish the Hilly Hundred Bike Ride near Bloomington, Indiana, we reward ourselves by spending a night or two at Brown County State Park. This nationally known 15,776 acre facility is a jewel in the Midwest. October is one of the best months to visit because of the beautiful foliage color change. The park is open all year round offering an abundance of activities including 18 miles of easy to rugged hiking, 20 miles of mountain biking, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, horse-back riding and the beautiful rustic Abe Martin Lodge which has 84 lodge rooms.

Our first morning, we had breakfast at the lodge which is located in a beautiful rustic setting. It’s a lovely place to have a reasonably priced, excellent buffet while being surrounded by nature at its best—flowers, birds, deer and a variety of colorful trees.

Camping is available year-round, and the lodge is available for all. In the past, we have stayed at one of their family cabins near the lodge which includes sleeping for 8, a complete kitchen equipped with all the cooking utensils and linens.

If you want to feel like you are visiting Appalachia, step into the nearby town of Nashville, IN. It is a shoppers’ delight with a variety of stores and restaurants. Get a carriage ride through town if you prefer.

Then return to Brown County State Park to experience the beauty and solitude of nature. If you live in the Chicago area as we do, the distance from the city to Door County or to Brown County is about the same—5 hours give or take. Of course, it could be up to 10 degrees warmer in Nashville, IN. This has been part of for years now.  Take time to enjoy the beauty of God’s wonderful creation.  For more information, see the following:

Brown County State Park Online: or call 812-988-6406.