I’m Still Crying About Cincinnati-Area Teen Kyle Plush
Saturday marked 10 years for me at The Enquirer and Cincinnati.com.
Colleague Sharon Coolidge suggested writing about it. And I immediately thought of the stories I’ve covered that have brought me to tears over the past decade.
There were two.
The 2012 or 2013 homicide of a young man. And the April 2018 death of teenager Kyle Plush, who suffocated after being pinned under the backseat of his Honda Odyssey.
They still make me cry.
I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name of the kid who was shot dead in the middle of a street in Evanston. He had one and deserves the honor that I say so. I don’t remember his exact age, around 18 or 19. I can’t find any reports of the incident in The Enquirer’s archives, on Cincinnati.com, or anywhere else online.
I just remember him lying face down, lifeless, in the middle of Woodburn Avenue. It was around 11 a.m. on a Saturday night. The neighborhood was silent. Officers quietly did their job to deal with the scene.
I was a business journalist then. But in my early years at The Enquirer, all the reporters had to report on the weekend breaking news once every few months. It was my first time covering a homicide scene. It was also the last.
I gathered what little information was available and called it into the weekend editor, jumped in my truck to drive home and lost it. I remember almost having to stop because I was crying so hard.
The emotions and questions were overwhelming. He was someone’s son. Someone’s grandson. Someone’s friend. Could he have gone to college if only one caring person had intervened? How could anyone have such disregard for another man’s life? The life of the dead young man was much more than the two sentences I called out in the editor.
It’s a story we’ve all read too often. We become numb to it. Seeing the guy’s body made those stories real. All those young men and women dying on our streets are Someone.
This story also made me really appreciate the work of journalists, police officers, coroners, prosecutors and others who regularly come face to face with death. Seeing this stuff must be about their sanity. It’s something the rest of us don’t think about enough.
As for Plush’s death, she evoked a range of emotions that, to this day, are still very personal.
I still have tears in my eyes when I see the photo that accompanies this column – a smiling child with a baby face sitting in a pile of leaves. No other story in my two decades in the news business has stuck with me like this. No other story has made me cry so much. No other story pissed me off so much.
Why is that?
Maybe it’s because the government failed miserably to respond to Kyle’s 911 call for help. And maybe it’s because I see myself in the story. It sounds weird. It’s not about me. I have never lost a child and I don’t know the pain that Ron and Jill Plush felt.
I have two young sons. I just know the way Ron Plush fought Cincinnati City Hall is exactly what I would have done for my boys. A week after finding his son dead in the back of that van, Ron showed up at City Hall demanding answers on why the 911 system and the police department had failed in their response to 16-year-old Kyle’s emergency call.
Ron didn’t let go. He had to endure listening to the horribly insensitive comments of then-Counsellor Wendell Young, who falsely claimed that Plush’s accountability claim was a witch hunt and a matter of money.
I was at the town hall for the meeting. I had been a columnist for almost a year. Regular readers know that I write with emotion. I have never written a series of articles on such an angry topic.
This is the only time an editor has removed an entire sentence from one of my columns. The sentence was incredibly hard. It was true, but I’m glad it was taken down. Sometimes a phrase or word in a column can distract from the overall meaning. I want the extra editing scrutiny when I write edgy. I definitely needed it to write about Kyle Plush.
I admired Ron for staying calm as Young made those tone-deaf comments. I wouldn’t have handled it with such grace. I saw Ron’s crusade for accountability, not just for his son. He was the voice of so many other families who had experienced tragedies in part because of a broken government — and the city’s 911 system was a mess at the time.
I never met Ron. We sent a few emails. But on each of the four Father’s Days since Kyle’s death, I’ve thought of Ron most of the day. I thought about what he and Kyle would do that day.
I never met Kyle either. But I’ve heard and read enough about him to know he was sweet, smart, loved his family and classmates, short for his age, a little wimpy but he didn’t leave his limits. prevent it from launching. And by “it” I mean live your life.
My eldest son is like that.
It would be an honor to work for The Enquirer for another 10 years. But I hope to God there will never be another Kyle Plush story.
Contact columnist Jason Williams via email at [email protected] and Twitter @jwilliamscincy.