When I was a kid, I remember watching a sitcom on TV and a character, a bad guy, was bragging about the prisons he’d broken out of. He named Alcatraz and Sing Sing and then proclaimed, “Why, I even busted out of Dannemora”!
I grew up on a farm about 8 miles away from the town of Dannemora, NY, the home of a New York State maximum-security prison. Now called Clinton Correctional facility, the walls of the prison dominate the tiny town of Dannemora, towering up one side of the main street. Some of America’s worst felons have made this prison their place of residence.
As kids, we weren’t at all nervous about living so close to the prison. When we heard that TV character boast about breaking out of Dannemora, we just laughed because we knew NOBODY ever escapes from Dannemora.
In the years since it opened in 1865, there had never been an escape from the maximum-security facility.
Last Saturday, two convicted murderers made a kind of crazy, really bold, breakout from Dannemora. They are still at large and the world is kind of weird where we live.
I now live about 25 miles from the prison but, since no one seems to have any real idea where the two men are, we’ve been locking the doors more carefully than normal.
The woman who cuts my hair was late yesterday because she was stopped so officials could search her car. The ladies at the quilt guild meeting last night came from Dannemora and all the small towns along the way—Saranac, Cadyville, West Plattsburgh.
They’ve been dealing with having their homes searched. By the time they went home, police were closing the road they would’ve traveled, because they had gotten a tip of men sighted.
Schools are closed. People are told to stay inside but to leave their outside lights on. Everyone here knows somebody who works behind those walls, so rumors are flying.
The human drama is intense. The escapees are scary, scary dudes, convicted of killing law enforcement officials and dismembering old men.
Their escape plan was so elaborate and well-planned, we all figured they must’ve had help.
And now the report is that a female prison employee may have been charmed, and used, by the men. She got cold feet at the last moment, the reports go, and didn’t show up with the get-away car. If this proves true, how humiliating for her family, her husband, the son who has defended her . . .
All of this has me thinking about how different news is when it affects us “up close and personal.” I am interested in news of other places but I admit that, the further away it is from me, the less real it seems. I have a hard time imagining, really understanding, the horror of a tornado tearing through that town in Oklahoma or a school shooting in Scotland or an earthquake in New Zealand.
But then one of you writes about something that affects your world and I feel closer to the event . . . because I know you. I guess we all respond to this need to have events made, somehow, personal.
So far, there’s been no present-day horror associated with this prison break. A lot of people are unsettled and there’s a lot of angst and uncertainty but no new violence.
So far. We’re all paying attention to the news and keeping our fingers crossed that this ends as well as it can, with the men back behind bars, under close watch forevermore.
And that we can just amend our old statement slightly and go on saying, “Nobody ever SUCCESSFULLY escapes from Dannemora.”