Those of us who work in the Bio Sciences building of Gateway Technical College (that’s where WGTD studios are housed) were rocked by some shocking news yesterday- the unexpected death of Ken Vetrovec, director of the Gateway Foundation. His office was right down the hall from our studios and I had spoken with Ken on at least two occasions on my Morning Show- and would meet him in the hallway on a very regular basis. And even on those occasional days when I didn’t actually run into him, I would always see him through the glass of the master control room as he ambled down the hall. He was a very nice, pleasant person and the room always seemed a little brighter when he was in it. We are so sad.
There is something behind his death that is worth talking about. He was killed in a motorcycle accident outside Ely, Nevada while making a cross-country trip on Route 66. According to many media reports, his camera was found at the accident scene with a photo that had been snapped just moments before the crash – which raises the very real possibility that this might have played a role in the accident which claimed his life.
When I read that my blood ran cold because on more than one occasion I have snapped a photo while driving. One of the first times I did it was on a summer afternoon when we picked up our dogs from day care and as I followed behind Kathy’s car (I’m not sure why we took two cars that day) Bobbi and Ellie were handing out of the passenger side window, looking so happy – and I just had to snap a picture. And another. And another. At some point Kathy noticed, and I don’t remember if she called me on my cell phone or waited until we got home- but I do know that she conveyed to me her immense displeasure with me that I would be that careless behind the wheel. And she was right. And I stopped. But there have been a time or two since when I’ve done it . . . although I have tried to be exceedingly careful. Once was right outside of Decorah, when I saw about a dozen deer in a field and just had to capture the scene – and I can think of a time when I was driving along Green Bay Road and saw a van over on its side – and because it was one of those gaper’s delays and the traffic was crawling along quite slowly, it didn’t seem like a particularly dangerous thing to do – scarcely more dangerous than changing the station on the radio. But this is one of those give-an-inch/take-a-mile scenarios, I think – and that if you give in to the temptation of taking “safe” photos when you’re driving, it is only a matter of time before you pass something that tempts you beyond your good judgment and you grab the camera, snap a picture, and . . . who knows what might happen next.
The tragic accident which claimed Ken’s life has sealed the deal for me. I have made a solemn vow that the only way I will ever take a photo from my car is if I have pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. . . no exceptions, no way. If Jesus Christ Himself returns to earth in a gleaming chariot and I happen to be the only person around to witness it – and I’m driving at the time – I will calmly pull over to the side of the road – stop – and only then snap the picture. As God as my witness. . . (literally)
And I suspect that I am not the only person who has made this promise in the last 24 hours. If there is any good to come from Ken’s death, it is that the cautionary tale raised by his accident may save some lives. Maybe even mine.
pictured above: I took this photo on my way home from the Racine Zoo. It shows the Main Street drawbridge (is that what you call it?) elevated so boats can pass in and out of Racine’s harbor. At least I was at a full stop at the time.