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Pilot Scott O’Grady Voted Area’s Top Story

A Spokane boy who grew up to be a national hero.

A schoolgirl who never made it to the last day of class. Another schoolgirl who taught Spokane about AIDS.

A revolution at the ballot box that moved on to the halls of government.

Those were the area’s top stories of 1995 selected by the readers and staff members of The Spokesman-Review, who participated in a survey this month.

Scott O’Grady, the Air Force fighter pilot, flew past all other nominations for Spokane’s top local and regional story.

The tale of O’Grady’s survival behind Bosnian lines and ultimate rescue was, as Eleanor Franklin put it, “a good human interest story. It’s good to see where things work out.”

O’Grady - with his constant protestations that he wasn’t the hero, his Marine rescuers were - just seemed to be a decent human being, said Jenna Hollenbeck.

“He never gave up,” said the former high school teacher.

Although readers had some 55 different stories on the ballot, a few suggested the list was incomplete and voted for their own.

Two readers suggested the Seattle Mariners first trip to the playoffs was also the year’s top story. Another voted for the Oklahoma City bombing, one of the top national stories of 1995, as the top local story.

And a few readers voted for stories that touched them personally. Mary Mitchell of Otis Orchards thought a column by Spokesman-Review Editor Chris Peck about her devoted dog Muffin, was “the number one best news article of the year.”

The choices for the top stories of 1995 were far more varied than some years when the region has been rocked by such community-shattering events as a mass shooting, a plane crash or a raging wildfire.

O’Grady was one of the year’s “good news” stories. The murder of Ridgeview Elementary student Rachel Carver by her uncle was one of the year’s bleakest.

“That really hit home - being a parent, having my children walk back and forth to school,” Hollenbeck said. “My children heard about it, we talked about it and prayed about it.”

Blair Strong said the Republican revolution - which moved from the ballot box in 1994 to the halls of government in 1995 - is a story that’s still being written.

“It ran through the whole fabric of politics,” said Strong, from the replacement of House Speaker Tom Foley with attorney George Nethercutt, to the switch of parties by County Commissioner Steve Hasson

“There’s really no going back to the old days of Lyndon Johnson and the New Deal,” said Strong.

While Carver’s death was a shock, Kara Claypool’s death was expected. Infected with AIDS before her birth, Kara became the first known victim of that disease in District 81 schools.

By the time she reached second grade last year, she had taught Spokane more about AIDS than the politicians, the public health officials or the medical reports. She also taught a lesson in courage.

She was, said Jim Ray, “a real example of love of fellow mankind.”

Ray, a longtime civic activist and a member of the Public Facilities District that completed the Spokane Arena, wrote on his ballot that he would only vote for six stories from the 55 nominations on the ballot.

Kara Claypool, O’Grady, the arena and a few other stories “accentuate the positive,” Ray said.

“We should all read much more of these stories in 1996,” he said. “I assure you they will be there and urge you to give them equal time in your newspaper.”

, DataTimes

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