By Dan Haley
Editor's Note: This was written on Sunday July 24.
I've been following our coverage of Jassen Strokosch's disappearance mainly from the road. We were furiously packing on Thursday morning when I checked my email one last time and saw the first notes of worry. Thanks to our reporters, photographers and web staff for the good job they have done in covering this story.
This is the first time I've ever left town—it has been a while since our last extended vacation—where it was possible both to be actively involved in the coverage and to follow the coverage via phone, laptop, website and social media. And it was gratifying to see both our staff and the broad community mobilize to find this fine man, and for the Journal to cover and even become a conduit for the effort.
Jassen Strokosch is safe. And when you go back to Thursday and all the dark thoughts all of us tried to keep in abeyance, this is a spectacular ending to the story. It is really pretty simple.
In ways that define Oak Park as a community, a wellspring of caring rose for this man and his family. It was an organic eruption that was then channeled into a spray of practical response—search teams, meal planning teams, fliers in 7-Eleven teams. This is nothing but a blessing. It says nothing but good things about our village and the smaller communities within the village like the Irving school family. The response reflects the values of our town in an enormously gratifying way.
The response also reflects the deep connections that Jassen and his family have in Oak Park. When you are active in your town, when that action is seen only as positive, passionate, smart and caring—you are going to get love, respect and affection back. That's the way it ought to be. And when that person is in trouble, that connection sparks and spreads, and amazing things happen as they did in the past few days.
I know Jassen Strokosch just a little, in a way that a local editor knows a lot of people just a little. We met during the District 97 referendum campaign where he served as a co-chair for the pro-referendum side. And I liked him. He was optimistic, fair-minded, hard-working, and had a sense of humor throughout. He jumped into our online debate, always by name, and he added perspective, facts and a sense of honor about the contentious battle.
My daughter and I were having dinner at George's Restaurant one evening a few months back and the Strokosch family was at a table across the room. The two of us watched them because the family was so much at ease. We've all watched kids and parents in restaurants where the fascination was over which side of the table was going to erupt first and whether there would be actual screaming. But this family was engaged and happy, laughing and connected. Really a joy to watch.
So now we're moving to the end of the story. Jassen Strokosch is safe. Our community rallied for one of its own, which is the very definition of community. But there are unanswered questions. That feels like real life, now doesn't it? Where was Jassen found? What hospital is he in? What the heck happened to this guy?
Some of these things we will not know now or ever. And that's OK. We don't need to know, or have a right to know, everything.
We've started to pull some comments down on this story at OakPark.com. Some of you folks are embarrassing yourselves with your demands for answers in what is now a private moment, in your demands for reimbursement of public resources.
From 600 miles away I'm as proud of my hometown as ever. I'm relieved that Jassen Strokosch is found and will recover. I wish I had been home to see the mobilization rise up firsthand. And I just heard that my basement flooded again.
Time to hit the road.