Would you die to write? Many journalists have, and one of our own in Southern Illinois was honored for doing so. Ryan M. Rendleman, a Batavia native and Southern Illinois University Carbondale student photo-journalist for The Daily Egyptian was killed April 29 on his way to photograph a child who had Tay-Sachs disease to be featured in a story about the disease.
Rendleman, 22, was the youngest journalist and the first college newspaper journalist to have his name placed on the crystal monument inside the Newseum of Washington, D.C.
A senior honor-student, Rendleman was killed when a tractor-trailer barreled into his car, where he was stopped at a construction zone in Washington County. He was among the 62 killed on assignment in 2008 and another 15 journalists honored from earlier years making 77 names added Monday. After each name was read, a single chime was sounded.
Thirteen journalists were killed in Iraq in 2008. Mexico, Pakistan, and the United
States each had five fatalities. Many of the foreign journalists were intentionally killed, but others like the five in the United States were accidentally killed on assignment. Ken Paulson, president of the Freedom Forum which operates the Newseum, told how he had often sent reporters on assignments that would put them in harm’s way while Paulson was editor of. top-selling USA Today.
Rendleman had worked on the university paper for several years and had served as copy editor, reporter, photo editor, and staff photographer. He was scheduled to work as a photographer as a summer intern for the Southern Illinoisan this summer. His membership in Vine Community Church was very important to him, and he was well liked and respected by his peers and professors. His family and friends established the Ryan Rendleman Photojournalism Scholarship in his memory, and the first recipient is to be announced soon.
The story in our area paper was written by William Recktenwald, senior lecturer and journalist-in-residence at SIUC and a retired reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Recktenwald explained, “The Newseum blends the history of news over the past five centuries with interactive exhibits and current technology.”
Chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum is Charles Overby, and he reported more than half a million people have visited the Newseum in its 11 months of operation. Recktenwald quoted Overby as saying, “While many will run from danger, journalists often run towards it.”
The Journalists Memorial soars two stories within the seven-story Newseum building near the Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the front of the building is the text of the First Amendment.
The first name on the memorial is that of Editor Elijah Lovejoy, who was killed here in Illinois at Alton by a mob opposing his abolitionist views in 1837. I was pleased that Rev. Daniel Butrick, one of the missionaries who with his beloved wife voluntarily traveled the Cherokee Trail of Tears on their terrible march in 1838, mentioned this in his journal. Lovejoy was on Butrick’s mind when he entered our state, and I wonder if Lovejoy’s martyrdom inspired the Butricks to make their sacrificial journey of conscience.
Directly beneath this sad story in our morning newspaper is the large headline and photo of a beautiful little girl named Abbie Adams, who died Saturday in a St. Louis hospital while waiting for a heart transplant. Abbie has united our entire area in prayers, concern, and now tears. The newspapers, churches, and her mother’s blog on the Internet have kept people informed of her progress as she was put on a pump device implanted to save her until a transplant heart could be received. When I went by Katherine’s in Marion yesterday, she was absorbed reading all the comments recorded—more than she had ever seen before on one blog.
Abbie was a charming healthy first grader who seemed to have flu that caused her parents to take her to the doctor. At Heartland Regional Medical Center the Drs. Al-Sharif worked together to recognize that her heart had become involved by the illness and Abbie was taken by air ambulance transport to St. Louis on March 3.
Abbie’s mother, the choir director at Carterville High School, has had the concern of her students. A special showing of the annual spring musical was performed Sunday and raised more than $6,000. Everyone has wanted to do what they could to comfort this family in their terrible loss.
Jamie Adams wrote, “We feel so blessed to have had this precious child for the past six years; she was such a beautiful, precious little girl. I feel so fortunate to have been her mother.”
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Third Baptist Church in Marion.
Like many Southern Illinoisans, I read the morning paper with tears and sadness. Yet I was also inspired by the too brief lives of Ryan and Abbie.
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