Bob Hough: Support felt from around the county and beyond

I should have realized how special the people of Anne Arundel County were when so many of you came up to me and my colleagues at the High School Athletes of the Year Showcase on June 13 and expressed your appreciation of our work.

If there were any doubts about just how special everyone associated with athletics in this county is, those were squashed on Thursday and Friday.

One by one, all the way into Thursday night, overnight, into Friday morning and into the afternoon, the messages came across my phone, email, Twitter and Facebook. They were not only concerned about me and my colleagues in the sports department’s well-being, but also wanted to express their sympathy for those who lost their lives.

Athletic directors, coaches, administrators, players, former players and parents reached out to me. I even heard from an athletic trainer from one of the county’s schools. Even after they realized I was not among the victims, they still wanted to reach out to say they were glad I was safe, but also to express their condolences for those who lost their lives and offer their help in any way.

This I do know—these weren’t just token, ‘Glad you’re OK, praying for others,’ messages. For instance, I guarantee if I would have reached out to Glen Burnie boys basketball coach Mike Rudd and said I needed something, he would have jumped right away. I even heard from Old Mill boys basketball coach Mike Francis, who suffered a loss in his family earlier in the week, with a phone call making sure I was OK.

South River athletic director David Klingel made an interesting point when he contacted me via text. As an educator, he has to say a prayer every day he steps in his school and feels for his young daughter and kids in general who are growing up with mass shootings as the new normal.

This was probably something he thought would never happen at the local newspaper, the same paper where just a few weeks ago we welcomed All-County athletes to get their pictures taken. I cringe at the thought of something like this happening when we had teenage children and some coaches in our office for what should be one of the highlights of their athletic careers.

I feel bad for my family, those in the area and others more than 200 miles away, who had to see the scene play out on national television and wonder if in fact this was the paper I work for, and if so, was I harmed? I could hear the relief in their voices when I answered my cell phone confirming I was safe.

This is a time where many county employees are probably on their well-deserved vacations. Who knows how many of them were on a beach, cruise ship or just enjoying time with their families when they reached out. South River softball coach Tim Williams mentioned he was on vacation and sent a message on behalf of himself and his family expressing his thoughts.

While most of the subjects I deal with are directly involved with athletics in the county, I also heard from fellow reporters from the county and beyond.

Colin Murphy of Voice Media, who I frequently see at events in the area, offered his thoughts via text. A.J. Mason, who I’ve seen at various events at schools like North Point and La Plata in southern Maryland, gave me a call on Thursday. One of the most touching messages I received came from Keith Mills of WBAL TV and Radio, who I credit with getting me started in journalism. He saw a post from me about feeling some guilt about laying out a sports page just hours after the incident. He said all of the victims would not only want us to keep going, they would demand it.

Late Thursday night, once word got out of the deceased, more than one person mentioned how they had a chance to chat with Wendi Winters the night of the High School Athletes of the Year Showcase. While we in sports focus on the student-athletes’ athletic achievements, Wendi told more of their stories in her weekly Teen of the Week feature. I’m sure she was a wonderful representative of the paper that night, just as she was throughout her career.

On Friday, the messages were more in the form of, ‘What can we do?’ We received several messages from people offering office space, one of which we graciously accepted, while others offered to provide lunch for those working. Others offered their editorial assistance, from offering to write and edit stories to proofing pages.

While I’m more connected with high school sports in the county, I began to receive several messages from colleague Bill Wagner Friday afternoon, documenting what he is hearing from organizations from the United States Naval Academy, American Athletic Conference, Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse, Washington Capitals, University of Maryland and Annapolis Yacht Club. All have reached out in some way to express their thoughts.

I tried to acknowledge everyone who reached out to me, but I’m sure I missed some. The outpouring of thoughts, prayers, support and offers to help was overwhelming.

Thank you again for proving just how special you are.

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