BSU: Prologue: from “Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing”


Local story – Winchester, IN.  Discussion of story tactics/sources

September 12 on PBS:  Documentary

Broken Pledges—book to film

Prologue: from “Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing”

  Copyright, 1990, Hank Nuwer (Longstreet Press)

  The call came in the middle of the night. Eileen Stevens’s son was dead.

  She was alert and numb at once, her flesh no longer part of her. She
  wanted to hang up. She wanted the caller to stay on the line forever. She
  wanted to know what had happened and how. But most of all she wanted
  the call to be a dream, a very bad dream.

  But the pain in the caller’s voice, the small break in his professional
  manner, revealed the truth, told her the worst had happened. She was ready
  to bargain with God. The devil. The caller himself: Take my life, my
  soul—take me. I’ve lived. But make it untrue. Take me, not Chuck.

  But Chuck was dead.

  She wandered through the house. A gong vibrated between her ears. She
  eyed the refrigerator. The freezer held the ingredients for chili. Chuck alone
  in her family loved it. Parents Weekend at Alfred University was
  approaching, and she had planned on taking him a special meal.

  She went into his room. In the closet were the boots and skis she’d given
  him not two months earlier. He’d used them only once. She was glad she
  exceeded the budget to buy them. She could still hear his squeal of joy on
  Christmas morning. Twenty, he’d acted like a four-year-old. His joy was
  infectious; his hugs, genuine. If only she had kept hugging him forever,
  never let him go.

  The caller’s words roared like a waterfall in her mind. Chuck’s “probable
  cause” of death was an overdose of alcohol, “at a party,” the dean of
  students had said. He had also repeated that explanation to her husband,
  Roy, in a later call. But how wa sthat possible? Sure, Chuck drank a few
  beers with his buddies, his fellow clammers on nearby Great South Bay,but
  he’d never had too many to the best of her knowledge.

  She wanted to leave immediately. But a winter storm had intensified,
  adding 3.4 inches of snow to the twenty-two already on the ground in
  Alfred. Flying into a commercial airport within a niney-minute drive of
  New York’s Southern Tier was going to be impossible until snowplows
  could do their work. She contemplated going by car, but Roy convinced
  her she would have to wait out the night.

  A staunch Catholic, she spent the long night cradling her husband in her
  arms, taking comfort in her religion. Then the thought struck her. She’d
  have to ask if someone had summoned a priest to administer Last Rites the
  sacrament of Extreme Unction her faith promised would permit her son
  straightways into Heaven.

  Little did she know that her boy’s spiritual welfare was the last thing on the
  minds of those who shared his last hours. To the ghastly end, fraternity
  rites prevailed over last rites. And human rights.