All posts by Sandy Kaczmarski

Elburn pilot unshaken after Japanese quake

Photo: Donna Peterson and her step-daughter, 17-year-old Kaneland student Veronica, gather with the family’s dogs around a picture of Charlie, looking forward to his return home. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski

‘I miss my family,’ he says as he begins his trip home
by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—Donna Peterson first heard about last week’s earthquake in Japan as it happened during a phone call from her husband Charlie.

“Honey, I think we’re having an earthquake,” he said.

Charlie is a United Airlines pilot and was on the 20th floor of his hotel in Tokyo when the earthquake started. Donna turned on the television in their Blackberry Creek home and realized that it wasn’t an ordinary quake.

Charlie gave a phone interview from Beijing (where it was 4 a.m.) and also recounted his experience in an e-mail.

He said he’s flown the route before and gotten alerts about quakes in progress.

“We ran into a crew that told us they’d just come in from Japan and there was a 6.0 quake,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m glad they got that out of the way before we got there.’”

Since the route he takes from Chicago is over the North Pole, “diversion areas are limited.”

“I was thinking, I really don’t want to land in northern Russia,” he said.

Charlie was able to land without any diversion and had been in Tokyo 24 hours before the quake hit. He said the shaking lasted for about two-and-a-half minutes.

“It was difficult to stand,” he said. “I realized there was a large picture on the wall that was shaking violently. So I decided the safest place was in the middle of the bed.”

His co-pilot was on the ninth floor and considered going outside, but also decided it was safer to stay in his room rather than risk having the entire building come down on him.

Charlie described the sound during the quake as a loud creaking, like “an old rocking chair made for a giant—times 20.”

Looking out his window, he said the buildings looked as if they were made of thick jello, swaying for nearly half an hour after the quake stopped. Tokyo has some of the most stringent building codes, and for a country that experiences 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes over a magnitude of six, he said Tokyo’s earthquake damage wasn’t nearly as bad as might be expected.

Charlie said once things quieted down, the first thing he thought of was his wife and kids. After the initial call home, phone service was knocked out, but he was able to communicate by e-mail.

“The aftershocks kept coming at a fast pace, and the experts said they will continue from this quake alone for another three years,” he said.

He spent 76 hours in Tokyo, and by the time he left for Beijing, there had been 277 aftershocks as high as a 6.6 magnitude. With space at such a premium in Tokyo, he said the convenience stores ran out of food right away, with empty shelves for the next few days.

One thing Charlie said he was struck by was the stoicism exhibited by the Japanese people.

“Everyone downtown was being orderly. People were walking out of a subway station without panicking or running,” he said.

“There was a woman in the hotel lobby who let out a loud shriek,” he continued. “She had just learned her son was dead. That went on for about 10 seconds, then she just got quiet, sobbing, and walked away.”

Pilots often are away for extended periods, and he pointed out they are gone the entire time and don’t get to go home at night. What started out as a seven-day trip ended up being nine days with the delays. He said he was glad to be headed home.

“I miss my family.”

Candidates see commercial growth as key to Sugar Grove’s future

Photo: Sugar Grove Village Board candidate David Paluch addresses the crowd during last week’s candidate forum held at the Sugar Grove Public Library, while fellow candidates Mark Buschbacher, Kevin Geary and Mari Johnson listen. About 50 residents turned out to hear candidates for a variety of local offices, including village trustee, as well as the fire protection, park, library and school districts. Photo by Mary Herra

by Sandy Kaczmarski
Sugar Grove—A balanced budget and attracting new businesses to Sugar Grove were issues agreed upon by candidates running for village trustee at a candidate forum last week. Four candidates are vying for three four-year terms and all concurred that the village faces a tough road ahead.

About 50 residents turned out for the forum on a chilly night held at the village’s new library and hosted by the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce. Candidates for other local races, including Sugar Grove Fire Protection District, Park District, Library and Kaneland District #302 boards, also were allowed to speak.

Kane County Forest Preserve District President John Hoscheit explained the district’s upcoming $30 million referendum to buy additional open space now that land prices have dropped.

But it was a panel discussion of candidates for village trustee, moderated by Bo Smith of the Elburn Herald, that kept the crowd waiting. Kevin Geary and Mari Johnson, both incumbents, as well as challengers Mark Buschbacher and David Paluch, answered several questions beginning with the ongoing issue of impact fees.

When asked about cutting or eliminating impact fees to attract developers without hurting the School District, which announced a $1 million budget shortfall, the candidates agreed that new business could be the answer.

“We’ve just recently negotiated a deal with McDonald’s, a flagship type of commercial business that other businesses want to follow,” Geary said. “That’s great for us.”

Geary also suggested property taxes were another option since commercial properties pay taxes as well without putting a single child into the school system.

Johnson said the best way to encourage development without hurting the schools is to work hard to bring in commercial, retail and industrial businesses.

“Those are things that help grow our tax base and diversify the community,” she said.

Buschbacher said an interchange at Route 47 and Interstate 88 would “change the dynamics” and create a trickle down effect in drawing traffic to the area and attract more retail development. Paluch agreed that the new McDonald’s opens the door to attracting other businesses, but cautioned the village not to move too fast.

“Slow but steady growth is a good thing,” he said.

All agreed that the biggest issue facing the Village Board is finances. Johnson acknowledged that there would be difficult decisions ahead, but that the board would need to look ahead to see what needs to be done.

Paluch was optimistic despite the financial challenges ahead.

“The plus side is we are at a surplus for 2011 and project a surplus for 2012,” he said. “That’s fantastic news in this economy.”

Early voting begins Monday, March 14, and continues through Thursday, March 31, before the consolidated election on Tuesday, April 5.