On Scott Simon and the Boy Scouts

I like to listen to Weekend Edition Saturday.

It’s Scott Simon. I love his voice. It’s deep. Sometimes it’s dramatic. Sometimes it’s excitable. Sometimes it’s mirthful. He uses his voice the way a violinist plays his instrument. He gets exactly the right pitch and timbre for the story he’s telling, the news he’s relating.

He’s written a few books. Home & Away, about growing up a sports fan in Chicago. (A bit like Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, really. Nothing like either film adaptation, fortunately, and I even like the Colin Firth film.) I read his novel Pretty Birds, about two high school girls, a Christian and Muslim, who lived through the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. The thing with a Scott Simon book is that, when you read it, you can hear his distinctive voice. You can read the sentences, and it’s like he’s there, speaking to you. The cadences are there. The changes in timbre are there.

I bring this up, because of a story Simon covered this morning.

Tornadoes ripped through Iowa earlier this week. Four Boy Scouts were killed when one tornado ripped through the heart of a Boy Scout camp.

Scott Simon told the story, and the way he told it would break anyone’s heart.

I’ve been critical of the Boys Scouts in the past — as an organization they encourage homophobia and religious intolerance. But I can’t deny the values that the Boy Scouts teaches — from honest to decency to courage — and the four boys and their fellow Scouts, in that Boy Scout camp, as the tornado funnels touched on the ground and tore buildings apart, did what they needed to do. They saved younger Scouts from debris. They rescued the park ranger and his family from their destroyed home. They were courageous, and tragically four young boys lost their lives.

I can’t do the story justice, not the way Scott Simon did. I can’t make it moving, or tragic. I won’t try. Listen to Scott Simon’s account, and you won’t be unmoved.

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