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Thumbnail image for emily.jpgI was in trigonometry my senior year of high school when the first plane hit the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. At a Lutheran high school in Springfield, Ill. About as far removed from downtown Manhattan as you can get.

I know, because I spent the next five Sept. 11's in New York City; two, living in a dorm building blocks from the World Trade Center. I woke up in those mornings to the sound of the names of those lost in the terrorist attacks being read aloud, echoing across a quiet and somber Financial District. I spent disquieting nights watching police place barricades and flares in the street in front of my dorm after plans for a terrorist car bombing in the area were uncovered. I made friends who had lived in that dorm when debris from the burning, falling towers rained on the area, who had spent their first-period high school classes watching the smoke rise in the distance and desperately trying to get ahold of family members, who had been first responders to the scene and still struggle emotionally and physically. I always felt like New Yorkers were a little nicer on the anniversary of that day; You never knew what someone else was going through.

I was supposed to fly to New York the day or two after the attacks for a college open house at New York University. Flights were grounded, and well-meaning friends were sure this meant I shouldn't make the cross-country move to a city of ruins. But I caught a later open house. I graduated cum laude from NYU.

But this day isn't about me.

Some of the best Sept. 11 remembrances I've read today have come from some of our own at The Courier-News.

Community News Editor Julia Doyle tweeted: "This day isn't about me & where I was. It isn't about Qurans. It's about the 2,977 people killed in NYC, Va. & Pa. for being Americans."

And Reporter Mike Danahey posted on Facebook: "Enjoy a day, and be nice to people who are different from you."

So let's do that. Let's remember the families who have been separated, both by the attacks and by the wars that followed. Let's remember those we lost in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and those who still are affected in the aftermath. That's who this day is about. Let's also remember the day when headlines on different newspapers, from different countries, from people who are different from "us," read, "We are all Americans." And let's be nice to people who are different. Because we are all Americans.

Take a moment to share your memories of Sept. 11, 2001, here. And then let's enjoy a day.

-- Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer

Thumbnail image for janelle.jpgI've picked up police reports in Elgin, Carpentersville, the Dundees and all over our area for 10 years now. I've written plenty of reports about home burglaries and have kept an eye out for patterns -- if houses in a certain area seemed to be getting hit, I'd make sure to note in the police report if those robberies seemed to be in a cluster and, hopefully, give homeowners a heads up that something is going on in their neighborhoods.

But the importance of those reports has a whole new meaning for me, now that it has happened to me.

I was out of town for several days for an aunt's funeral (breast cancer) in North Dakota. I spent an extra day there, too, because my sister and her husband sold their house and moved to Fargo, and they had to get everything out of the old house by end of Sunday. She was breaking down and needed her sister.

But on Sunday night, while I was driving in Fargo, my sister on the phone with my folks, trying to give them directions to her new house, my phone rang. It was my wonderful, dear neighbors telling me that when they went to check on my cat, they found my house had been burglarized.

They found the chain on the door, which was the first tipoff that something was wrong. They got the chain off and found my TV sitting on the living room floor. They immediately called 911.

I was 10 hours away by car. And really mad.

What was stolen, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpg(PHOTO: The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps of Rosemont perform "Mad World" July 1 in Oswego. Courtesy of

Last Thursday, I headed over to the AMC in South Barrington, plopped down my $18 and attended the live simulcast of the quarterfinals of the Drum Corps International World Championships taking place at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, the same place where Payton Manning makes a living.

cavaliers.jpgI don't know what I found more disturbing -- the middle-aged woman in the row in front of me sitting with her legs up on a railing as if she were going to give birth OR that a good many of the bands played scary shows.

Times are tough, and it's reflected in the performances, which, for the uninitiated, can seem strange anyway.

Take, for instance, the Cavaliers of Rosemont. The theme of the group's 12-minute show was "Mad World," that Tears for Fears song remade a few years ago as a haunting ballad.

The drill team in the all-male Cavaliers was dressed in trench coats, which was way too much of a reminder of Columbine for my tastes. Actually, after looking at Cavalier pictures online, the coats also recall Billy Idol videos from the 1980s. The team bellowed military chants about their rifles as they twirled and contorted. They formed a "Mad Circle" with some props, too. And, when the corps performed the Charlie Chaplin chestnut "Smile," the members donned white masks.

I half expected Heath Ledger to return from the dead as the Joker during the performance, which also seemed like an outtake from the director's cut of the last Batman flick.

As of Thursday night, the Cavaliers were in second place, behind the Blue Devils from California.

More scarily fabulous, or fabulously scary, drum corps performances (including the corps from nearby Rockford), after the jump.

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgCommunity Unit School District 300 students head back to class today, earlier than ever.

And the Carpentersville-based school district knows its teachers, its administrators, its custodians -- and its communities -- will be doing more with less this school year. That's the message behind the district's first "Superintendent's 'Welcome Back'" video, posted on late last week...

As The Courier-News' education reporter, I'll be out at the schools all day today with reporter Katie Anderson -- and all year. I want to hear your stories about doing more with less, about your concerns over the state budget's impact on the district, about your students' accomplishments. Send me your back to school photos, tell me your stories, here on Between the Bylines, at or at 847-888-7773.

-- Emily McFarlan, Readers' Reporter

Thumbnail image for gloria.jpgThere's a list somewhere, now lost in my old computer, of all the people who've come and gone from The Courier-News newsroom over the last 10 years. Some retired. Some moved on to new jobs. Some have been laid off. The last count was something like 100.

I'll be adding my name to the list. Today is my last day at the Courier.

While I am very excited to move on to the next phase of my career, the Courier is a special place for me. It's been my home for more than 17 years.

It seems like this newspaper always has been a part of my life in some way. My parents have been reading the Courier for more than 40 years. I remember as a child coming to the newspaper for a tour of the building. Back then, you could get a tour of the newsroom, the distribution center and look down at the printing press. I met my husband at a Courier-News hangout one night after work with friends who got me to sing "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." It was my voice that won him over -- at least that's my version of the story. Last year, my friends here threw a baby shower welcoming my twins.

Read more of Gloria's memories of the Courier, share your memories of Gloria's work here, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for gloria.jpgNOTE: Reporter Gloria Carr wrote Wednesday's Courier-News cover story, Sick About It. In the article, she detailed the Kane County Board's decision Tuesday to cut 62 Health Department employees, move nine service programs and end two entirely. The board cited budget crisis.

Reflecting on the story and the people it affects, Gloria shares the following today...

(Pictured: Kane County Board member Bonnie Kunkel questions Health Department Executive Director Paul Kuehnert Tuesday during the board meeting.)

Big news stories, like the Kane County Board's vote this week to turn over some of its social service programs to federally funded agencies and lay off 62 employees, tend to become hectic. The stories sometimes seem to run together as you try to cover different aspects of an issue.

img_EL081110_KANEHEALTH_P02_scn_feed_20100810_19_13_44_14014-282-400.jpgTo be honest, the Kane County Health Department issue was starting to get repetitious. The arguments were sounding all the same. The outcome was almost predictable.

Following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, I found myself thinking, "Let's get on with this vote."

Following that vote, there were a lot of things going on with reporters -- all trying to talk to everyone involved to get comments. I was among that group, trying to figure out who might comment, when I saw a young woman who I thought had been sitting with a group of people I was pretty sure were health department employees.

What changed Gloria's thinking, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for katie.jpgYesterday, I walked through a crime scene.

This is not altogether unusual for reporters, as we often respond shortly after police and paramedics to places where car accidents, shootings and other nefarious activities have taken place.

Yesterday, however, the crime scene was in The Courier-News office.

My work day started about 8 a.m. at Elgin Branch Court. Bond court went quickly, and soon I was in my car and headed for the office. I turned "Viv," my 2005 Pontiac, onto Lake Street and headed up the hill toward the office like usual. Then, I noticed something strange.

There were two police squad cars and an evidence van parked in front of 300 Lake Street -- The Courier-News building.

My first thought was that our editor Paul Harth or cops reporter Steve Johnson was interviewing members of the police department for an editorial or news story. (One morning last spring I arrived to work to find about a dozen taxi cabs in our parking lot and parked around the building because Steve was writing a story about cab drivers in the city.)

Curiosity piqued, I parked Viv in her usual spot, crossed the street and walked to the building. To my surprise, the first thing I saw once inside was an Elgin police officer covering the front desk with dark fingerprint powder.

I quickly learned The Courier-News was burglarized over the weekend. Now this was interesting!

The details of the crime, after the jump.

Thumbnail image for katie.jpgSome days, newsrooms are hectic. Reporters and photographers are busy covering scandals, accidents, fires and other breaking news. No one has a minute to spare, and there is no shortage of copy to fill the next day's paper. Ask any journalist -- it's stressful, but exciting!

JPEG_Happy_Writer.jpgThen there are slow days... Nothing is breaking, and the next city council and school board meetings are a week away.

When this happens, we dig into press release folders, sift again through old e-mails and even surf the Web for story ideas.

Yes, even I, self-proclaimed Never-ending Story Ideas Girl, have been caught on a Tuesday afternoon (newsroom staff meeting day) frantically checking craigslist for something to turn into a story.

You see, although creative, intelligent, modest and "tuned in" to the goings-on in our respective communities, at some point, all journalists need a story idea. When we find ourselves in need, we have a few options:

1. Rub our furrowed foreheads, squish back deep into our seats and chew our pen caps until the Story Idea Fairy drops a good one on us.

2. Panic.

More legit ideas and links, after the jump

Thumbnail image for emily.jpgIf you believe this rap video, Elgin is pretty much the Compton made infamous by NWA and Snoop Dogg, as our own Mike Danahey said.

(WARNING: It is NSFW. Really, really NSFW. No REALLY, the chorus alone repeats the F-word four times. There's nothing we can do about it, since it's out there on the Internet, but don't click on it if you're under 18.)

It's called "Welcome to Elgin" by Madd P, and it's reportedly the first single off his mixtape, "MELTDOWN."

P tweeted last week the entire "mixtape" soon will be available online for free download. And while we all are waiting on pins and needles for that to happen -- and "comin' down 20 with our Glocks" -- we launched a newsroom-wide effort to count the rap cliches and Elgin references in this video (mostly, so you don't have to brave the language).

My favorite characterizations are the downtown neighborhood where The Courier-News building is located as full of "crack fiends and drug dealers with them rocks / mixed in with corporate owners, casino and crooked cops" and "studios, liquor stores and laundry on every block / that's why those alphabet boys say we're the City to Watch." Also, you "never know when it may be your final day" here.

Count them all, add your own, tell us where the eff do you come from, after the jump!

Thumbnail image for danahey2 copy.jpg(WARNING: This may be the longest blog post EVER. But it does have a lot of pictures!)

Quite frankly, we're disappointed in Elgin gadfly Tony Aiello's picks for stick figure puppets for his Elgin2030 video blog rants. Sometimes the connections seem dubious at best.

Gollum for Mike Warren. Really? Warren is chasing around town naked looking to take a ring from two hobbits. You really think he's that twisted and evil?

And Courier-News Reporter Mike Danahey is Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man? Though Danahey might be that cranky at times, Jameson was an editor. Readers' Reporter Emily McFarlan is Lois Lane, a.k.a. Twitter Girl? Every fanboy knows you don't mix Marvel and DC Comics characters. It ain't kosher.

So here are what we think might make better puppets for Aiello to play with. Putting this together made us realize you really need a lot of free time on your hands to make a puppet show -- luckily for us it was the Friday before the Fourth of July holiday.

City Manager Sean Stegall

Thumbnail image for stegall_web.jpg

Aiello's Robin, the Boy Wonder, from the Batman TV show pick for Stegall is probably Aiello's most inspired choice. Still, it's old school. We're thinking maybe Harry Potter.

Thumbnail image for harry potter.jpg

He bears a slight resemblance to a young Elvis Costello.


Or even Buddy Holly would do.


Mayor Ed Schock


Aiello has Schock as the evil Mr. Potter from "It's A Wonderful Life." Even if you believe Schock is that stingy and evil, a better fit would be Charles Comiskey, who owned the Chicago White Sox and whose miserliness led to the Black Sox scandal. Schock is a Sox fan, so this would be a better fit if you lived in Aiello's world.

Thumbnail image for CharlesComiskey.jpg

City council members, Aiello and your Courier reporters, after the jump.

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