New Photos from Washington, Illinois

These pictures are from the exact same neighborhood I went to in November, 2013. (Scroll down to see November photos.) I hope to interview the tornado survivors I spoke to back then to see how they’re doing.  As you may know, residents from Washington will receive state aid but they did not qualify for FEMA funds. Washington, Illinois is about a 90 minute drive from the Quad Cities. (Some street names have been shaded out to preserve the privacy of homeowners.)

Peoria Journal-Star
Story about Red Cross efforts

Here are only a few of the many Washington area news stories about recovery efforts. The city is still seeking volunteers!


Jane Goodall Greets Over Five Thousand Supporters at U of I

Here’s the start of Dr. Goodall’s speech. Her goal is to educate and motivate children and adults to heal our planet. We were allowed to tape and photograph the first five minutes only.

Click to Listen: Opening of Her Speech at University of Iowa

Viewpoint: Professor Shares Her Experiences in Afghanistan

Professor Jordan Schneider shared news of her recent visit to Afghanistan with a supportive crowd at the Bettendorf Library. Schneider was an intern at the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the 1990s. Part 1 of that presentation. Part 2. (Still photos in this video were obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Butte College logo and overhead shot came from and w w

Below is a slide show of some of the artifacts and memorabilia Professor Jordan Schneider brought with her for the February 25th presentation sponsored by the World Affairs Council of the Quad Cities.

Be Sure to Watch CNN Heroes, Sunday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

One of the Quad Cities own local heroes, Chad Pregracke, will receive a special honor Sunday night from CNN. His non-profit organization, Living Lands and Waters, has enlisted the help of tens of thousands of volunteers to help clean up the Mississippi and other rivers.  Over the years LLW has expanded its conservation efforts to include teacher workshops, field trip opportunities on the barge that serves as a floating classroom, and many other advocacy activities.

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President Obama Visits Galesburg

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Local Residents React to President’s Message – Click to Listen: Link to audio story

An ocean blue sky dotted with islands of clouds stretched over a crowd of about 400 well-wishers and protesters at Knox College as they greeted President Obama’s motorcade.
Once inside Memorial Gym the president started off reminding Galesburg residents of what they told him about the changing economy in 2005. That’s when the local Maytag factory closed, leaving 1,500 people without good paying jobs.
“So these were stories of families who had worked hard, believed in the American Dream, but they felt like the odds were increasingly stacked against them. And they were right. Things had changed.”
“We’ve had a lot of repercussions in the area and all you have to do is drive around and see. The housing is deteriorating and so on. And people just don’t have enough money to make those improvements. I’m one of those people.”
That’s Sallee Wade. She’s a semi-retired yoga teacher and writer and has lived in Galesburg for years. She’s seen the changes in town since Maytag left.
“I would love to make some improvements on my property but it has lost value.”
“You just don’t have the extra…”
“No, no. There’s no extra. There’s always enough for this day, enough for this day. But I know people who are a lot worse off than I am.”
The president outlined five familiar areas he wants to focus on to help the U.S. stay competitive. They are: modernizing our infrastructure to create jobs, addressing skyrocketing college costs, new home ownership initiatives, continuing to focus on health care, and helping the middle class retire securely.
He also said that, behind closed doors, some Republicans in Congress agree with this agenda. But Mary King said she thinks things in Washington are pretty hopeless.
“I agree with everything he says but I still don’t know how it’s ever going to get done. No, it’s not his fault, but how’s he going to get anything through Congress?”
But George Lane from Peoria thought he heard something a little different.
“Was there anything in particular he said that really kind of struck a chord with you?”
“Yes. That he will go ahead and use the power of his office and try to bypass Congress as much as he can. Congress has not given him any cooperation whatsoever.”
Emails and calls to Illinois GOP leaders to get their responses to Obama’s speech were not returned. But Congressman Aaron Shock’s office directed me to a press release published by the Illinois House GOP Delegation.The delegation says they have worked to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are working on a tax reform bill they say will stimulate the economy, have presented a bill to permanently fix the student loan crisis, and quote: “we stand ready to work toward real, bipartisan solutions, not listen to another stump speech”.
Naturally you would expect to find most people at an Obama speech agreeing with him, but several people who said their own personal economies were fine were worried about global competitiveness. And they’re worried about younger adults and what lies ahead for them.
Doc Patterson is a retired firefighter from Chicago and Monmouth.
“The state of Illinois has been a leader in a lot of things in the world, not only locally here in Galesburg but nationally. And to hear him say we’re going to bring that back, and his plan, those five bullet points, are so important for these younger generations because they’re giving up hope. And I hope this re-energizes the area.”

Link to the GOP press release: here.

Link to full text of the president’s speech: here.
(The audio quote from the speech was gathered from a podcast published on

Related News:

Q & A with Dr. Kayali

(This conversation occurred on April 30, 2013 but I have dated this 4-22-13 on this blog so it will show up in the right story order.)
Click to Listen: Dr. Kayali
4/30/13 Part 4: Questions and Answers
Q: I wanted to ask your opinion as to whether or not you believe the reports of chemical weapons are true. 
A: I do believe that is true. I do believe it was used on, like, small scale. But I really do believe it was used more than once. The reason for that…I did see some videos or tapes, and so on, from areas that I know. And what I saw did point toward use of chemical weapons. Now, I’m not the expert, I did not go and investigate, but the videos I saw, and being a physician, I really believe that it was used.
Q: Where did you see these videos? Are they on…are they being shared on Facebook?
A: Mostly on Facebook. It is videotapes that you can also get from YouTube.
Q: Okay, so these are Syrian people who … posted these on YouTube and Facebook.
A: Right. There are, like, Facebook pages that, they usually don’t take sides. They just bring the news so that people respond to it negatively or positively, you know, so they are kind of trying to be reporters. And they just say, “So-and-so said this and here are the videos” so it wasn’t from, like, this side or that side.
Some of the websites that are created with the government said that the opposition are the ones that used the chemical weapons that the guards hauled off from Turkey which doesn’t make sense at all. Turkey, there is no way for Turkey to get through…chemical weapons to the armed rebels. So even they themselves think that, yeah, there was some chemicals used, chemical weapons used, but it was the other side that used it. So, I mean, both sides are saying there has been some chemical weapons used and we don’t both have no chemical weapons so that’s left one party to be using it.
Q: And these videos that people take, do they just capture them with their cellphones usually?
A: Mostly yes. It’s like one of the videos was in a military hospital that belongs to the rebels. And there was multiple people on beds with a lot of foam and mucus and so on coming out of their noses and mouths, and the video did show them having difficulty breathing. And, you know, as I said I’m not the one who can analyze videos but to me, it looked real.
Q: Do you think it’s likely that the government would actually go this far, that they would actually take this next step? 
A: I have no doubt. I think what is holding them back is the international community otherwise they would have used it on a much larger scale.
Q: What do you think other nations and the United States could or should do to help the rebels?
A: I think they can have like, safe areas, where no-fly-zone type, so there will be no airplanes that will be allowed to fly over that area and the Patriot missiles will block any Scud missiles that might be carrying….It’s mind boggling that we are just worried about chemical. What about other weapons against civilians? Is that okay? So I really think there should be areas where it will be safe for the refugees. I’m not saying the rebels with arms. I’m not saying go fight for us. No – we don’t want that. We…most civilians are against the fight. But there should be areas where it’s safe for people who, forced to leave the fighting, our hot areas, to be able to move from these areas and make sure that they are safe because most of the killing is happening to civilians, not fighters. So I would really encourage all the international community not to lay a foot inside Syria, not to arm anyone, just, you know, stop the arming of the government by Russia and Iran and have a no-fly-zone in north and south Syria.
Q: Okay so you would like to see the United Nations step in and set up, to set up perimeters with peacekeeping forces so that the civilians could be safe.
A: Exactly. It’s like what they did with Iraq, no-fly-zone, north and south of Iraq in the past before the invasion of Iraq.
Q: Once they set up these zones, do you think the rebels will continue to fight it out, or do you think negotiations are possible? 
A: I don’t think negotiations will…people are still trying to negotiate. The opposition, you know, there are all of the extremes. There are people who want to fight to the last drop, but most of the free army and the political opposition, they all are willing to….I mean he’s not going to stay. There is 100 thousand victims of this war and the vast majority were killed by the government so this government has no legitimacy. But we can discuss safe exit, we can discuss protection of, you know, the minorities, we can discuss all that, can be discussed, and no one will have any problem with it.
Q: Is there leadership for the opposition? Have they established any sort of governing body or anything? Are there any names I should know of who’s their…?
A: They did…the Syrian Council I think it’s called and it does not represent 100 percent but I would say it represents at least 60 percent. Remember, dictators do not let any prominent figures in the community. They get rid of them. And that’s why the Arab Spring had a very hard time starting because there was no one to lead. And all that’s happened has happened with no leader which is really hard to imagine. So we will still have to work that out but all the people have good intentions. They formed the Syrian Council. They are trying to expand it to engulf everybody in it and already, like right now, the head of the council, the temporary head of the council is a Christian. So they are trying to get everybody involved.

(Dr. Kayali added that he thinks the Al Jazeera network and website is providing the most thorough coverage of Syria right now.)

Questions and Answers with Mr. Koek

Click Here to Listen: Questions and Answers with Mr. Koek

After his presentation Mr. Koek took questions from the audience. He said he decided to tell his family’s story about seven years ago after a Holocaust remembrance ceremony at his synagogue. The president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum was the speaker at that service:

And I said to him, I said, ‘I’m one of the hidden children’, I said, ‘And I’m one of the survivors.’

And he says, ‘Are you telling your story?’ And I said, ‘No I can’t.’ Like most of us, we couldn’t. And he looks me straight in the eye the way you’re looking at me now and he said, ‘But Joe you must.’ And ever since then I haven’t shut up.

Some audience members wondered if Joe had ever gone back to visit his host families. He did return many decades later and made contact with the son of one of the couples.

Joe came to the U.S. after his oldest sister moved to the states after the war. She found him a job and so, in 1956, he came to Chicago. He became a tailor like his father, and then opened a dry cleaners. He also married, twice, and has three children and five grandchildren. His younger sister still lives in Amsterdam.

Question: What was it like the first time you told your story and where was it?

The first time was in Libertyville at a junior high school in front of over 300 children. Before I went there I went to the gentleman who was in charge of the speaker’s bureau and I said to him, ‘Where do I get trained for this?’ And he says, ‘You don’t.’ He said, ‘You go to school, you walk in front of these children and you tell them your story.’ And of course since then it’s become a little bit less difficult but it’s still not that easy.”

Question: What was their response?

“Interestingly enough the kids are wonderful. The questions…are fantastic. I’ve had groups of children where they would come to me, ‘can I shake your hand?’ ‘can I hug you?’

There’s a lady here from the area…brings children from the Middle East who are Muslims and other religions…these kids have become my friends.”

Joe says he wants the students he meets to understand that “we are all alike. We need to live together peacefully.” He read the audience a final page from his story that he usually reserves for students:

The story of the Holocaust tells us that there are people who hate other people so much that they will kill them only because they believe different, or look different. My story also tells us that there are also people who will do anything to save others, including risking their own lives. My wish for you children, is that you will grow up and belong to the second group.”

Joe also spoke to troops and guests at the Rock Island Arsenal’s Day of Remembrance Ceremony on April 9th. He answered a few more questions there.

What happened to your first host family – the ones where you were wearing the wooden shoes and then you fell?

“That was the second host family. The first one was The Haig, the second was the farmers and since I was no longer living with them when the Nazis walked into their house it was just a farmer and his wife. They turned around and left them alone.”

So they were safe.

“They were safe.”

The name of the village where the slaughter took place is Zevenhuizen.

Since you’ve been sharing your story does it make the memories more difficult, or does it help?

“It comes and it goes. It depends on who the audience is, what my mood is that day. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes…a day like today…it was not so easy seeing all these uniformed men. It’s a little difficult.


Joe’s son Steve was with him at both of these events and has seen his dad tell his story before.

What did you think when your dad started doing this?

Oh I thought it was phenomenal. I mean I think it’s changed his life. I think it’s added years to his life, to be able to do it. I was telling someone over there that he’s always loved to talk, he’s always been a ham – it’s been such a release for him, to be able to share it and to see the importance of the story living on for the next generations. I think he enjoys it and sees the importance of it. And for me as a son to be able to watch him and to hear the story is incredible. And to see the reactions from people, now that I’ve seen it a few more times, is really endearing.

At the Arsenal Ceremony several members of the audience, men and women alike, were moved to tears. 

4/19/14 – The Dutch want to create the first Holocaust memorial that includes the names of over 100,000 Dutch citizens who were exterminated by the Nazis. For more information see