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From the week of September 16, 2004

Town Without Pretty

Code read:Westword used to be the newspaper for those of us who didn't necessarily take on the values of mainstream society -- who have chosen to live life "in the slower lane." Then I see Kenny Be's September 9 Worst-Case Scenario, "Erie, But True," depicting Old Town Erie as something less than a slum. Of all people, I would think the folks at Westword would appreciate the value of a place like Old Town. We have no HOA and no covenants except one: Live and let live. Our concern is not blind allegiance to the god of property values, but recognition that there is value in a community that has diverse economic and social components. We have no emphasis on code enforcement here because we don't want it! I'm thankful that there are still some places where bureaucracy is not dictating how I have to live. The result of this freedom is that Old Town is a nice place to live. Most residents here do take pride in their property. We take pride in knowing and helping our neighbors.

Is Westword contending that the folks who live in the multimillion-dollar houses at the Parade of Homes are better than those of us who live more modestly in Old Town? If you are, then you're not the newspaper I remember!

Ruth Schrichte
Erie


Crash Course

An extraordinary life:I would like to thank you for David Holthouse's outstanding article "License to Kill," in the September 9 issue. Sonja DeVries was just as he portrayed her; she truly touched everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. Sonja was unique in all the ways that he so kindly described, but it was her presence that was magnificent. She was pure joy on two feet -- an unforgettable person, unlike anyone. She would have liked David Holthouse -- his sensitivity, his kindness and his talent -- and she would have blessed him with one of her larger-than-life smiles.

Thank you for bringing Sonja to your readers and for bringing awareness to the terrible circumstances that led to her death. I am praying that people are moved to action.

Victoria Copeland
Alamogordo, New Mexico

Sonja's story lives on: I very rarely write responses to stories I read in the paper, but David Holthouse's article on Sonja DeVries has inspired me to -- I just read the last words twenty seconds ago! His writing so much detail about her life -- her accomplishments, goals, loves, talents -- was very inspiring to me. I noticed she and I had a great many things in common. I even came very close to losing my own life in a DUI accident, as a passenger, at the age of sixteen, in 1986. What a hard way to learn a lesson. It's truly horrible that Ramon Romero didn't learn his lesson the first time he was cited for DUI.

If you are in contact with her parents, I wonder if you could give them my...well, I don't know exactly what. I'm sure they're tired of people calling and offering condolences. I just cried at reading how they don't want revenge, but just for that despicable Romero to do his time and pay restitution, but not suffer indefinitely. Theirs is a kindness that very few possess, and I admire them, and their daughter, for showing it. Sonja's story is one that will live on, even in the minds of those who didn't know her, thanks to David's writing on her. My deepest appreciation for sharing her life with us all.

Diana Hailey
via the Internet

The town crier:Another good one by David Holthouse. Opening the rag, I thought, "How boring will this shit be?" But again I was wrong; he has a nice way of making me feel sorry for people I don't really give a shit about, like Sonja DeVries. Bummer that she died.

My one problem was this incident: "While Pacheco conferred with a court clerk, Romero retreated to a rear corner of the courtroom. When a reporter approached, he said, 'No, no, I can't talk to you.' The reporter pushed a photo of Sonja DeVries into Romero's line of sight. He recoiled and began to cry."

I am assuming this "reporter" was Holthouse. Am I wrong? Kind of a shitty thing to do, in my eyes, but some reporters forget they are reporting and not making the news happen by forcing emotional responses from people. Sure, he is wrong for getting drunk and killing Sonja. But he is a victim, too -- a victim of his own stupid life. Why was he run off from Channel 4? I don't understand that.

I was a reporter in Louisiana for a while, and this is the kind of crap that made me quit the business. Everyone got hurt in the incident. DeVries died, her family wept, Romero lost his job, and he's publicly smeared and will reside in jail because he is irresponsible. The worst part? Someone gets to blab it all over town in the paper. Being the town crier is not art. You dig me? Journalism is karmically devastating.

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