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I didn't know that! was an alternative news site.  As managing editor, I produced much of the content.  Some of my favorite feature stories were of the "Betcha didn't know this"variety.

This day in miracle history
(posted on the 50th anniversary of the event) 

I love a good “this day in history” story.   I also love a good “amazing tales of survival” story.  Throw in a local connection and I am one happy camper.
So today we’ve hit the mother lode.
It’s the anniversary (and not just any anniversary…we’re talking 50th) of one of the most miraculous days ever at Niagara Falls.
Have you ever heard of Roger Woodward?  No one had until July 9, 1960.  But on that day he became known around the world.
Roger, who was seven, was in a boat in the Niagara River with his 17-year-old sister Deanne and a family friend, Jim Honeycutt…the owner of the boat.  About a mile upstream from the Horseshoe Falls, the motor conked out.  The current carried the boat closer to the Falls, while Honeycutt frantically tried to paddle to shore.  Then the boat capsized!  All three were tossed into the upper rapids.
The current carried Deanne close to shore, where two New Jersey men managed to pull her to safety at the very brink of the Falls.
But no one could reach Honeycutt and Roger.  They were swept over the Horseshoe Falls.  Honeycutt was killed.
Which brings us to the miracle part.  The amazing part.  Seven-year-old Roger Woodward, swept over Niagara Falls wearing only a life jacket and a bathing suit….a nearly 200-foot fall in the middle of millions of gallons of water.  Plunging into water nearly 200-feet deep water, with treacherous rapids. 
Roger Woodward survived.
One of the Maid of the Mist boats was just making its turn below the Falls when a crew member spotted the bright orange life jacket.  The captain maneuvered the boat closer, as passengers watched frantically.  Twice the crew threw a life preserver toward the boy.  Twice it failed to reach him.  Finally, on the third try, Roger grabbed it and was pulled to safety.
Roger Woodward has returned to Niagara Falls a few times over the years.  On the 30th anniversary of his fateful day, he told his story to a church congregation.  He and Deanne both returned to Niagara in 1994 for a Canadian television special….on that occasion, Deanne was reunited with the two men who plucked her to safety.
Roger Woodward should have died 50 years ago today.  Instead, he became part of the legend of Niagara Falls.  A legend that will long outlive him.

Remembering Bob Kalsu
(posted the day after the 40th anniversary of his death)

I saw this mentioned on Two Bills Drive, and it made me want to write this story.  Bob Kalsu died 40 years ago yesterday.
If you’ve been to a Bills game since 2000, you’ve seen his name on the stadium’s Wall of Fame.  Maybe you’ve heard the story of why it’s there.  Any Bills fan will tell you it’s not for his football career…he only played one season for the team, back in 1968.  He was a pretty good rookie offensive lineman…in fact, he was the team’s rookie of the year…but we never found out how good he could have been.
That’s because Bob Kalsu was killed in the Vietnam War.  He was the only active professional football player killed in that war.
Kalsu had to fulfill his ROTC obligation.  He enlisted in the Army as a lieutenant.  In November 1969 he received his orders to go to Vietnam.  As a professional football player, he probably could have pulled some strings and stayed home….but he didn’t.
On July 21, 1970 Kalsu’s unit came under enemy mortar fire.  It was during the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord….a 23-day battle between the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division and the North Vietnamese Army.  It was the last major confrontation between US ground forces and North Vietnam in the war.  It ended two days later.
Bob Kalsu was reading a letter to one of his fellow soldiers…a letter from his wife Jan, who was about to give birth to the couple’s second child.  He never finished reading it.
There’s an incredible article about Bob Kalsu in Sports Illustrated…if it doesn’t bring at least one tear to your eye, you’re not human.
James Robert Kalsu Jr. was born on July 23rd….two days after his father’s death.  Jan Kalsu was informed of her husband’s death hours later.
We hear a lot these days about professional athletes and their off-field incidents.  Current members of the Bills have had a few of them.
I wish someone could sit down with some of them and tell them about Bob Kalsu.  Tell them about the son he never met, the daughter he never saw grow up.  Tell them how they make more money in their lowest-paid season than he would have made in his whole career…if he had lived to have one.  Tell them how he died. 
The next time you’re at a Bills game and you see his name up there….take a moment and think about how Bob Kalsu died.  More important, think about how he lived.

Buffalo's place in horror movie history
(posted the weekend of the Oscars)

In honor of the Oscars, we thought we’d look back at one of the most honored, most successful, most prestigious movies ever filmed in Western New York.
Okay, actually it was a schlock slasher flick that just about everyone has forgotten about…but it’s worth mentioning.
The movie was called “The Burning”, and it was filmed throughout Western New York in 1980.  It was one of those summer camp horror films that were so popular back then.  The plot, such as it was, involved a prank on a camp caretaker which went horribly wrong (since it’s called “The Burning” that should give you a good idea what kind of prank it was) and his desire to get revenge by killing teenage campers in all sorts of gory ways.
Maybe that explains why you’ve never heard of it.  But you have heard of quite a few of the people involved in the movie.
Starting with the writers.  Harvey and Bob Weinstein.  Yep, this really bad horror movie was more or less the beginning of Miramax, which went on to make lots of prestigious movies and win lots of Oscars.
Another writer, by the way, was Brad Grey.  He went on to become the executive producer of a little tv show you might have heard of.  It was called “The Sopranos”.
As for the cast, three names stand out.
First, Fisher Stevens.  He’s been in a ton of movies and tv shows….including Friends (he was Phoebe’s psychiatrist boyfriend who analyzed the gang)…and he co-starred on the show “Early Edition” for several years.  Oh yeah, he also was married to Michele Pfeiffer for a while.
Next, Holly Hunter.  That’s right, Oscar-winning and multiple Emmy-winning actress Holly Hunter, star of movies like “Broadcast News” and “The Piano”, and currently starring in the tv series “Saving Grace”…..began her career in a horror movie filmed in WNY.
There was another actor who made his debut in “The Burning”.  Jason Alexander.  Yep, long before he was killing us on Seinfeld, he was killed on film….here.
So the movie might have flopped, but there are things to be proud of….and we can be proud of the fact that it was filmed right here in WNY.

 Buffalo & the Shooting of the Pope
(posted the day the gunman was released from prison)
You hear it all the time in Western New York.  Whenever there’s a big story somewhere in the world, you just know it’s gonna have a Buffalo connection.
So today, when I heard that the man who shot Pope John Paul II was released from prison….it was a reminder of one of those really huge stories with a really big local connection.
When Mehmet Ali Agca of Turkey shot the pope in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981….one of the bullets passed through the pontiff  and struck a woman who was there on a pilgrimage.  A woman who was from Buffalo.  Her name was Ann Odre.
Can you imagine what it was like to work in a Buffalo newsroom on that day?  Just the fact that the pope was shot, when WNY has a huge Catholic population and a huge Polish population, had everyone scrambling.  Then we find out that a woman from Buffalo was shot as well.  It was wild.
Odre survived…and because of the shooting she actually got to meet with the pope. 
As for Agca….we still don’t know the real motive for the shooting….over the years he’s said some crazy things, including claiming he was the Messiah.  And today, when he was released from prison in Turkey, he sounded as crazy as ever.  He released a statement that said “I proclaim the end of the world.  All the world will be destroyed in this century”.  He also said the Gospel was full of mistakes, and he would right the perfect one.  And keeping with the whole Messiah thing, he signed off as “the Christ eternal”.
One of his lawyers said Agca is planning a news conference Wednesday.  That should be entertaining.