Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Richard Jewell: The Strangest Hero

I have always been fascinated by the strange story of Richard Jewell. In 1996, Jewell noticed a suspicious package outside a stadium in Atlanta during the Summer Olympics. Acting on years of public and private law enforcement experience, Jewell cleared the area just before the package exploded (the bomb still killed one person). He was a genuine hero.

For all of two days. Not long after the world hailed his efforts, anonymous law enforcement officials suggested to various media outlets that Jewell was a suspect in the bombing; he was accused of being a loser, someone who might have planted the bomb -- and then prevented it from exploding -- to gain notoriety for himself. He went from hero to scourge overnight.

It wasn't true of course. The real bomber was Eric Rudolph, the radical anti-abortion terrorist. Yet Jewell's moment -- which should have won him national, if not international, acclaim -- passed, and he was stuck trying to recover from the various media outlets that slandered him.

We should all admire and remember Richard Jewell, who died early today. He deserves as much.


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