The Jackson Herald - August 25, 1999
Tragedy and community
I did not know Kim Thi or little Di Thi, the mother and daughter
who were killed in a freak wreck in Jefferson two weeks ago.
But like a number of other people who weren't personally acquainted
with Kim or Di, I stood at the graveside service Saturday morning
out of respect for a family that had been shattered and the two
promising lives that had been lost.
It could have been my wife and child, or yours, who died that
day. I had been at the scene of that wreck while rescue and medical
workers attempted to save the two lives. It was obvious that
those efforts would likely be futile, so serious were the injuries.
And even though I've seen a lot of bad wrecks over the years,
those where children are hurt or killed are the worst. No one
gets hardened to that.
Saturday morning, Kim and Di were laid to rest amid a ceremony
that blended the traditions of two cultures - the one Kim and
her family left thousands of miles away and the one they adopted
when they moved to Jefferson. Two Buddhist monks clad in bright
orange robes chanted briefly as the smell of incense hung in
the air, reflecting the Vietnamese heritage from which Kim was
born. An older Vietnamese woman gave instructions to the family
and the assembled Vietnamese crowd as various objects were tossed
into the grave.
Intersecting with those traditions were brief remarks from local
Methodist minister Gary Whatley. Sitting on the ground in the
shadow of the single casket, Mr. Whatley spoke to the three young
children who are now without a mother and baby sister. Dressed
in traditional white, the three listened as this Christian minister
offered words from a different faith, but a single purpose. The
pain of loss is the same in all languages and religions.
In this single, blended service was the essence of what it means
to be part of a community. We hear a lot today about "cyber-communities,"
locations on the vast internet where people with similar interests
meet to exchange information. We also hear a lot about particular
political or ethnic communities - the African-American community
or Hispanic community, for example.
But those narrow definitions of "community" fall far
short of what a community should really be.
A community is a place where people turn in times of tragedy
for support, or in times of triumph for celebration.
A community is a place where people with different interests
meet because they share the common interest of a particular time
A community is a place where people from different religions
meet to discuss not how they are different, but rather how they
A community is a place where ethnic or cultural differences are
secondary to the larger common interests that transcend issues
of race or culture.
A community is a place where people can come together to mourn
the tragic loss of two people they did not know and to support
a family they have likely never met.
Last Saturday, the common bonds of this community were tied around
the different heritages, beliefs and histories of those assembled
to bury Kim and Di. It was just a small sample, I think, of the
sense of loss felt throughout the community. Hundreds not at
that service in person were there in spirit.
Psychologists tell us that tragedies often sharpen the senses
and focus the mind in ways not possible in our normal life's
So too can tragedies focus the collective sense of community
that we share, but often forget.
Kim and Di Thi reminded us of that. Whether we knew them or not,
they were a part of our community and we mourn their loss.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson
The Jackson Herald
August 25, 1999
Deal could be
good for county
It's a long way from a done deal, but if the county and Water
Wise can reach an agreement on sewer service, it would be best
for both parties.
The key issue in this controversy is control - who will control
the placement of sewer lines in the county and hence, where intensive
growth is allowed?
We believe that no matter who operates a sewer facility, a local
government should have control over where sewer lines are put.
To allow unregulated, private companies to make that decision
would make profit, not the public interest, the paramount concern.
The deal being worked on by lawyers for the county and Water
Wise is an effort to balance those two interests by allowing
the county to decide the location of sewer lines while allowing
a private company to profit from sewer services.
So why is this good for both parties? From the county's perspective,
having Water Wise fund the basic infrastructure development is
better than the county borrowing the money to do it. Still, the
county keeps control over when and where the lines will go.
From Water Wise's view, a deal now is better than fighting a
protracted court battle. Even if Water Wise could win in the
courts, that may take years. In the meantime, the county would
have long since gotten into the sewage business itself, basically
shutting off the local market from Water Wise.
There are still some big issues to be resolved in this effort.
For one thing, the county will need assurance that Water Wise
would be willing to put in some sewer lines for prospective industrial
growth; to gamble, in other words, for the long-term profit by
investing money today in sewer lines where there may not be any
immediate return on that investment. That is one area where the
profit vs. public interest balance will have to be reached to
both parties satisfaction.
It'd be a stretch to say any deal between the county and Water
Wise would be a marriage made in heaven - in many ways, it would
be a shotgun wedding. And as in all forced marriages, there's
a difficult and delicate balance that will have to be reached.
But that's better than the alternative legal fight that is sure
to ensue if the two parties fail to reach a deal.