Menu

Lipinski vows fed action on airlines' bumping

  • Written by Tim Hadac

In the wake of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged from a jet at O’Hare International Airport earlier this month, Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is vowing action that may end the practice of involuntary bumping.

The congressman, a senior member of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he may help lead federal action to “require that when you buy a plane ticket, that you are guaranteed to be on that flight. Right now, you’re not guaranteed to have a seat on that flight…you’re just guaranteed that the airline will get you to your destination at some time. I think that needs to change…so they would not be able to force anyone off a flight.”

Lipinski’s call to action was made in a conversation he had with The Reporter Saturday at an outdoor Easter egg hunt at Hale Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side, as passenger jets roared overhead on the way to and from Midway Airport, just seven blocks east.

The congressman’s pledge to act comes in the wake of an April 9 incident that saw a ticketed passenger, 69-year-old Dr. David Dao of Kentucky, yanked from his seat by Chicago Department of Aviation security staff and dragged off a United Airlines jet after he was selected for involuntary removal. He was one of four paying customers involuntarily bumped from the Chicago-to-Louisville flight because it was over the allowable limit of passengers. The other three left without incident.

The involuntary bumping occurred after no passengers accepted an offer of up to $800 in air-travel vouchers to give up their seats for four airline employees who were added at the last minute because they were needed to cover an unstaffed flight at another location.

Cellphone video of the incident — which shows Dao dazed and bloodied after being dragged down an aisle -- has shocked people around the world and triggered calls for air carriers to end involuntary bumping.

While Lipinski said that passenger air carriers “appear to be learning” from the firestorm of negative publicity around the incident and have take some steps to prevent future occurrences by increasing incentives to convince passengers to agree to be bumped from over-booked flights, he said it may not be enough. The congressman said it is likely that lawmakers will take stronger action through federal legislation — most likely the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill, which his subcommittee will work on next month.

“No passenger should ever be put through what Dr. Dao was,” the congressman added. “It appears that the boarding system broke down at many levels, and I am continuing to receive updates from the U.S. Department of Transportation, United, and the Chicago Department of Aviation about what occurred, what they are planning to do to prevent it from occurring again, and who will be held accountable.  No passenger should be forced to give up a seat on a flight on which they purchased a ticket, much less dragged off a plane.”

Lipinski, who typically flies up to 90 times a year on commercial jets, told The Reporter that people “are very unhappy with their flying experience these days. The airlines nickel and dime you for everything.”

The congressman has pushed for changes in air carriers’ operating procedures in the past. Last year, he proposed legislation that would require airlines to refund baggage fees for passengers if their luggage is substantially delayed. It was adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In 2015 he introduced legislation that would stop airlines from charging passengers a fee if they change flights because the bathrooms on their plane are out of order.

“I think it’s a shame where we’re at the point where the government has to step in to take care of these issues,” he continued. “The airlines really should be treating their passengers with more respect, but obviously aren’t. The flying experience has really gotten more difficult, more unpleasant — which is curious because the airlines are all making a lot of money these days. They need to be treating their passengers better.”

Survivors and residents recall 50th anniversary of Oak Lawn tornado

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ambulance photo 4-20

Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn Library

Ambulances were a common sight along Oak Lawn streets after the F4 tornado hit Oak Lawn on April 21, 1967.

John Brodemus recalls that it was a warm day. His primary goal that late afternoon was to ask a girl on a date.

However, his intentions and focus changed rapidly when he looked up and felt rain coming down and black clouds rushing toward them. He and the girl ran into her home on the 9300 block of Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn and took cover with other members of her family in the kitchen.

“It was loud but I can’t say that I heard a train,” Brodemus said. “She lived near trains. But when I came out, I knew.”

Brodemus, like thousands of other Oak Lawn residents, were stunned after scanning the aftermath of the F4 tornado that ripped through Oak Lawn and portions of Hometown and Evergreen Park on April 21, 1967. The tornado could also be seen, although with considerably less might, in Chicago before disappearing in Lake Michigan.

But in its path in Oak Lawn, 33 died and over 1,000 people were injured. The winds were reported as fast as 200 miles per hour.

The 50th anniversary of the tornado that struck Oak Lawn and surrounding communities will be recognized at an exhibit that opens at 6 p.m. Friday, April 21 at the Oak Lawn Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave. The exhibit will feature over 100 images, archival footage of the aftermath and recollections from witnesses.

The National Weather Service had issue a tornado watch at 1:50 p.m. that day for much of central and northern Illinois. The town of Belvidere, 65 miles northwest of Chicago, was struck by the tornado. Other northwestern suburban communities were struck by a tornado just after 5 p.m. that resulted in 20 deaths.

Kevin Korst, the local history coordinator for the Oak Lawn Library and author of “Oak Lawn Tornado of 1967,” wrote that at 5:15 p.m. an off-duty weather bureau employee witnessed a mass of clouds forming directly overhead. The clouds began to move near 88th Avenue, the current site of Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. The clouds swarmed and were followed by golf-ball sized hail. The twister picked up mud and uprooted trees. The tornado crossed the 294 tollway and into Chicago Ridge before ripping by the Starlite Drive-In before entering Oak Lawn.

The corner of 95th Street and Southwest Highway was lined up with vehicles at the stoplight while shoppers were everywhere. The tornado quickly ripped through the south gym and pool of Oak Lawn Community High School, tossing vehicles into the nearby pedestrian overpass and in every direction. Shoot’s Lynwood Lounge, Fisher’s Motel, the Fairway Super Mart, Sherwood Forest Restaurant and two gas stations sustained heavy damage.

The tornado tore apart the Suburban Transit Company at 95th and Menard, with buses stacked on other buses and vehicles. St. Gerald School was damaged and the Airway Trailer Park and the Oak Lawn Roller Rink along 91st Street and Cicero Avenue were destroyed. The Oak Lawn Dairy Basket, McDonald’s and other buildings near 91st and Cicero were also demolished.

Brodemus, 17, who was a senior at Oak Lawn Community High School at the time, just wanted to get home at that point.

“I left her house and was directed (by police) to go down Cicero Avenue to 111th Street, west to Harlem Avenue, north to 87th Street and finally east to Austin Avenue, “ Brodemus said. “I knew all about it by then. It was all over the car radio.”

He was allowed to go home where he met his distraught mother. His sister, Christine, who was 14 and a freshman at Oak Lawn High, had been practicing water ballet but was out of the pool at 5:15 p.m. Brodemus said they had shut down practice. She later ventured to the end of the school, away from the main force of the tornado.

His brother, Bob, also attended Oak Lawn High. His tennis meet with Thornridge was called off because of the sudden storm. He decided to take a shower and thought his teammates were playing a prank when the lights flickered and finally went out. He yelled but no one replied. Then he heard his doubles partner Chuck Nowak scream from downstairs that a tornado was coming.

Bob Brodemus then witnessed the double doors next to him slam open and shut in a rapid rhythm. He saw the concrete ceiling crack above him and rainwater leaked upon his shoulders. He grabbed the corner of the wall and he was shaking back and forth. Lockers and light bulbs crashed all around, he said.

After viewing a blue-green sky through the cracks, he quickly got dressed and ventured outside. He began going through debris and saw many dead bodies. After a couple of hours of helping the injured and cleaning up the debris, he went home and was happy to see his mother. His father also arrived home. The Brodemus family, who lived on the 9200 block of South Massasoit Avenue, was OK, at least physically.

“”I cried that night, the cry I should have had earlier,” wrote Bob Brodemus years later. “It was a luxury to cry – a real soothing luxury.”

Skip Sullivan was 15 and a sophomore at Oak Lawn High School. The baseball game they had scheduled with Sandburg was cancelled that day due to the sudden rain. The rain had stopped and he was watching the track team at school when a huge storm moved in with fast moving black clouds overhead. He quickly went into the school by the lockers.

Then the golf team rushed in and said “here it comes, get down,” recalled Sullivan.

“When we finally got out I remember hearing a car horn and seeing a man slumped over in his car, dead,” Sullivan said. “There were cars on the athletic field and a bus on a roof of a house. We worked our way to the main parking lot and could see the pool was totally leveled. The floor was buckled. It was like someone dropped a bomb. The fire department and police officers were asking for us for help.”

Sullivan, like Bob Brodemus, began to go through the debris and assisted the injured while seeing many fatalities. His father later came by a couple of hours later to find his son. Sullivan said his father looked relieved when he saw him.

Debbie Fisher, whose father operated Fisher’s Motel near 95th and Southwest Highway, was sick that day and did not go to school. Her mother and aunt brought her to the family doctor and she received some medication. She was beginning to feel better after that. Her mother suggested they go to the store to pick up some food for supper. They noticed the black clouds and the rain so they hurried into the store. A man then rushed in to tell them to get down. They went to the back of the store, and they heard the roar. The lights went out and debris fell everywhere.

When they left the store, they immediately went to her father’s motel. They noticed his front office was destroyed. But a few minutes later, they saw their father walking toward them.

“He was OK because he walked out of the office to change a light bulb in one of the rooms,” Debbie wrote a year later. “When he saw the tornado coming, he rushed into one of the rooms and slammed the door and got down on the floor.”

They hugged each other and arrived home later that evening. Their house was also intact.

Mary Lou Harker often sent her children to eat at the Red Barn Restaurant. But this time her husband, Oak Lawn Fire Lieutenant. Elmore “Al” Harker, who would become fire chief in 1976, said that they were going to take the children somewhere special for dinner.

That decision may have saved the children’s lives. The Red Barn was destroyed by the tornado. The Harkers were not directly hit by the tornado, but Mary Lou recalls her daughter seeing a desk flying in the air and part of a street sign that crashed through her neighbor’s window. They also noticed water that was originally from the nearby Oak Lawn High School swimming pool was dumped on their front lawn.

Mary Lou also checked on someone who was missing. She recalled seeing a deceased girl who still had her roller skates on. The deceased were taken to a temporary morgue at the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post. Her daughter, Michelle, 7, later had to attend a wake for a friend.

“She was wearing her Holy Communion dress,” Mary Lou recalled.

Mary Lou said the police and fire department worked valiantly over the next week or so. Many people also volunteered their efforts.

Korst said there is not one incident that stands out about the tornado.

“The devastation of the roller rink and 18 people were killed at the corner of 95th Street and Southwest Highway,” Korst said. “And people mention the National Guard.

“But the one thing I hear is the sort of pride people felt in helping each other,” Korst said. “A lot of people had a hand in the recovery from this terrible incident. They helped to rebuild and they moved on.”

New performing arts center at Richards moves forward

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

district 218 photo 4-20

Photo by Michelle Zalesny

The board congratulates Larry Harris and Karen Burmeister for their service during the District 218 School Board meeting on April 10.

 

Progress on the new performing arts center that will be built at Richards High School in Oak Lawn is well under way.

The arts center project was discussed briefly at the District 218 School Board meeting on April 10. The board rejected the original construction bids last month, after they came in several million dollars above the architects’ original estimates. The arts center is being redesigned with DLA Architects to bring the cost back down to the original budget.

The board hopes to re-bid the project soon.

Secretary Karen Burmeister and member Larry Harris also attended their last official board meeting this month, receiving clocks as gifts for their service. Burmeister has served the community high school district board for 10 years. Harris joined the board in 2009.

Taking their new seats on the District 218 Community School Board will be William 'Bill' Christian and Cindy Bartczak.

The Cook County Board of Elections results showed that Christian won the election in Harris’ Sub-District 7 with 70.19 percent of the votes (1,891). Bartczak won unopposed in Burmeister's Sub-District 2. Burmeister chose not to run for re-election.

Board members Randy Heuser and Thomas Kosowski, president, were unopposed in the consolidated election.

“Apart from serving on this board, Mrs. Burmeister has volunteered much of her time as a member of the education committee,” said Superintendent Dr. Ty Harting. “She also was a trustee and the president of District 218 and the Friends of District 218 Foundation, where she helped raised thousands of dollars for college scholarships and future grants. Mr. Harris has been a lead member of the district facilities committee and has given an untold number of hours in making sure the district spends its money prudently so that our students, staff, and communities can have access to the finest high schools possible,” added Harting, who thanked them for their kindness and generosity.

After the board congratulated students and faculty who received awards that evening, Harris and Burmeister expressed their gratitude with deepest admiration for their community, students and fellow board members.

“I just wanted to thank the community for having elected me two times to serve in this position, the administration, the staff, and all the support you’ve given me to make my job a little easier and more successful,” said Harris. “I truly hope that the students of our district use all the resources that we’ve provided. I also would like to wish my fellow board members all the success and remember that a well-educated student will become a good citizen and a great person.”

“I truly enjoyed serving the community, administration, staff, and students in this fine district,” said Burmeister. “We have some of the best students around with the biggest hearts and great potential to succeed. Whatever success means to them, it is my hope that this board, my successor, and future board (members) serve with honor and dignity to serve all of our students with the students’ best interest in mind.”

Kosowski also brought up new seat belt legislation being supported by Secretary of State Jesse White. House Bill 3377, sponsored by state Rep. Lou Lang (D-16th), would require three-point seat belts on school buses in Illinois. The bill passed the House Transportation Vehicles and Safety Committee and now moves to the full House of Representatives.

“Hopefully it will get moving along, maybe with a little help from the community,” said Harris, who has been an advocate for seat belts on school buses. “Call your rep up. Let them know what you think. There’s nothing better than a phone call. Let’s hope it passes.”

SXU's Birth to 3 program to continue in Evergreen Park

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

The Evergreen Park Board of Trustees granted a request from St. Xavier University to renew its lease for property at 9549 S. Homan Ave. during the April 3 meeting.

The university first leased that location last year. The property is used for programs for children from infant to 3 years of age.

Mayor James Sexton stated that the program and the agreement with St. Xavier University have worked very well during the last year.

“We have no problem in granting a second-year lease,” he said.

The SXU Birth to Three program offers free screenings, play groups, field trips and parent support for preschool readiness. In addition to Evergreen Park, the facility serves families in the communities of Oak Lawn and Alsip. For further information on the program, families may call (773) 941-5708 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Looking ahead on the 2017 calendar, the board also took action on a resolution approving the 49th Annual Independence Day Parade on Monday, July 3. The vote was unanimous, Sexton said.

“Please don’t ask me why it is on the 3rd. It’s not my call,” he said, laughing.

In the public forum portion of the meeting, Sexton commended the men and women serving in the village’s police department for their recent work in apprehending a suspect fleeing from robberies in Chicago, Merrionette Park and Mount Greenwood. The Evergreen Park officers and the K-9 unit found the suspect hiding in a garage in the village.

“Our department is to be commended for their excellent work and cooperation with the officers from the other communities” Sexton said. “We have a terrific relationship with both the police and fire departments of our neighboring towns.”

Trustee Mary Keane added that she wanted to thank the village’s fire department members for their kindness and compassion in dealing with her neighbors who had suffered a devastating fire several days prior to the board meeting.

“In the midst of their trauma, they took the time to tell me how wonderful the department was in trying to save their home and how they followed through the day after the fire to check on how they were doing,” said Keane.

A member of the audience, who said he lives on the 9800 block of South Avers Avenue, also praised the fire department for their work during a recent house fire at his neighbor’s house.

“Within a couple of hours, they had the fire out and the site cleaned up. You couldn’t even tell anything had happened there,” he said. ‘They were very efficient and competent.”

In other action, business certificates were approved for Prime Plus Pharmacy, 2955 W. 95th St., Suite 100, and a beauty shop, Happy Shear’s Salon, at 3510 W. 95th St.      

Young artists find inspiration at Easter

  • Written by Kelly White

charlie and claire photo 4-14

Photo by Kelly White

Evergreen Park residents Charlie Cushing, 6, and his sister, Claire, 4, work on handmade Easter cards to be distributed to hospitalized children at the Evergreen Park Public Library.

Maeve Broderick aspires to become an artist.

The 6-year-old Evergreen Park resident spends her free time coloring, drawing and making homemade craft projects In her first-grade classroom at Most Holy Redeemer School. Maeve also looks forward to art projects. On April 3, she utilized her artistic talents and joined several other youngsters, including her 3-year-old sister, Katie, at the Evergreen Park Library to make Easter cards for hospitalized children.

“I really like working on arts projects and making crafts that I can share with or give to other people,” Broderick said. “It makes them happy.”

“We visit the library on a weekly basis and I like to get my children as actively involved as possible, especially when it’s for such a good cause,” Brigid Broderick, Maeve’s mother, said.

The staff at the library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park, hosted the youth event to make handmade Easter cards for hospitalized children, just in time for the holiday.

All materials were provided by the library staff. The cards were created out of construction paper that had an Easter bunny cutout on it. They were then decorated with markers, colored pencils, crayons, Easter-themed stickers and cotton balls for bunny tails, before being cut out in the shape of an Easter bunny.

Each card was designed by a child with their personal favorite colors and held an uplifting and encouraging message written inside for the card’s recipient. The event was free. It was organized and guided by Laura Meyer, the children's librarian.

“Kids love to make cards and be creative, so it's fun for them,” Meyer said. “It gives children in the community an opportunity to volunteer, be crafty and do something kind for someone else. It also gives them a chance to brighten the day of another child.”

The participants were not instructed by Meyer on what to write. Children were instead encouraged to come up with their own message in accordance to the holiday as well as offering good wishes.

“The cards are very happy and positive,” Meyer said.

The cards will be going to “Cards for Hospitalized Kids,” a non-for-profit organization based out of Chicago that is internationally recognized charitable organization that spreads hope and joy to hospitalized kids through uplifting, handmade cards. The program has been running for over five years and at the discretion of the organization, over 100,000 children in hospitals in all 50 states have received a personalized card through the organization, including volunteers like those at the Evergreen Park Public Library.

Meyer sent the cards to Cards for Hospitalized Kids, and volunteers of the organization will be distributing them to children's hospitals nationwide and to Ronald McDonald Houses for Children. The cards will be delivered prior to Easter Sunday.

“I like helping others,” Charlie Cushing, 6, of Evergreen Park, said, as he colored a card filled with orange and blue Easter bunnies, alongside his 4-year-old sister, Claire. “It’s fun to make cards for other people.”

“My children love sitting and coloring and working on craft projects together,” said Colleen Cushing, Charlie’s mother. “The library always has great ways to get the kids involved in something important.”