What a picture of Waco.

That’s what It said right there on TV. Waco, Texas – Waco being the fuzzy white blob in a sea of black, with an occasional red and blue flickering.

(Actually, it was a miles-away night view of the law-enforcement post outside the Branch Davidians’ post 10 miles outside of Waco, something most people in Waco didn’t know existed nine days ago.)

It was the image bounced off satellites through the night, around the globe, all week – the scene of the standoff. Waco, Texas. The finest in information-age technology was delivering this blob into every home in the civilized world. I wonder if Saddam Hussein was watching.

We stared and stared at the blob. It didn’t get any clearer or any nearer.

A TV analyst compared the news coverage of the event to the blind man describing an elephant. Unfortunately, the same would apply to defining Waco, home of the Blob.

Like a lot of members of the media, I was absolutely blob-fixated for a couple of days. I could not read the rest of the newspaper. I could not think about concerns other than the blob watch.

Letter from school

Some Waco school students helped me adjust my view. You might suspect that letters to the editor streamed in about the Mount Carmel shoot-out, and they did. You might be surprised to know that they were outnumbered.

I received 32 letters to the editor from students at Tennyson Middle School. Rather than griping about the media or contemplating the week’s tense events, the students were discussing why they liked school. You see, Blob Week just happened to coincide with Public School Week.

One of the students, Tyronda Weatherspoon, wrote about her teacher, Mrs. Stinnett. “She talks to her students as if they were her own children. I love her truly as if she was my second mother.”

I also heard from Wade Alexander, who wrote to tell the editor that he likes English best and is working on his vocabulary because a command of words “will give me marketable skills to become your boss.” Well, get in line, Wade. And good luck.

Amid the dozens and dozens of calls being handled in the newsroom about the shoot-out, two calls I took were strikingly different, and as refreshing as new buds on the trees. One woman called from the Army Corps of Engineers to wonder if we’d be interested in a tree-planting activity at Lake Waco in a few weeks. Another was a tip about a “Peace Garden” – a place for meditations – to be dedicated next Saturday morning behind Lake Shore Baptist Church. Maybe CNN will cover it.

Real life in Waco

The inside pages of the week’s paper showed what real life is really like: A benefit chicken dinner at Chilton High School for the volunteer fire department (today, 2 p.m.); a bean dinner Saturday for Speegleville’s firefighters.

Vietnam veterans were still doggedly pursuing their dream of a monument in Waco.

While the ATF and the Davidians were shooting at each other Sunday, friends were raising money in a dinner and auction for Fred Dunham, a victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease, at Elm Mott’s Geneva Hall.

Monday the Northeast Neighborhood Association installed officers, one of the three brand-new neighborhood associations in Waco’s core.

Friday, driving to work on Franklin, I saw a man out of the corner of my eye who looked to have a TV camera on his shoulder. What network? What angle? What’s up? Then, I got up to him and realied that it wasn’t a camera but a little boy in a black jackets – his son – riding on his shoulder.

Oh.

There’s been a terrible tragedy outside Waco. But life goes on for its people and good for them. Too bad that blob out near the compound is identified as the place they call home.

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Tags

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.