Clanking monster crunches town,
including newspaper office
Guest Opinion by Patrick Brower
Patrick Brower is the editor and
publisher of Sky-Hi News in Granby, Colo.,
where a resident named Marvin Heemeyer converted his 60-ton bulldozer into a
75-ton fortified tank last week and crunched 13 buildings in the small mountain
town before shooting himself.
I knew we were in trouble when I saw the
aspen tree in front of the Sky-Hi News office slam into the front window of our
Up until that moment it seemed unreal that
the huge, ironclad behemoth rumbling down Granby’s main street had targeted me
and the newspaper.
Marv Heemeyer sat at the controls of the
massive armored and armed bulldozer, a menacing and dark ironclad behemoth. For
a second or so, probably less, Harry Williamson and I stood mesmerized by what
we were witnessing. The aspen tree whipped gracefully, almost, into the window.
The machine was relentless and the front
wall of our building cracked and tumbled with a sickening thud. The entire wall
— drywall, windows, trim and bricks — shattered and fell like a sheet of
shattered glass. It was that fast. The bulldozer roared forward toward us,
unfazed, passing through as if the wall was made of tissue paper.
We turned and ran. I felt fear for the
first time as I ran toward the back of the building, the clanking monster
I had mentioned to Harry, who is editor of
the Winter Park Manifest, our sibling newspaper, that whoever was driving that
machine must have a gripe with the paper. Earlier, I had guessed that it was
Heemeyer had two separate run-ins with the
Sky-Hi News. The first came in 1992, when he became an enthusiastic supporter of
legalizing gambling in Grand Lake, where he lived. He went so far as to edit a
pro-gambling newspaper, which during its two-issue existence trumpeted the
financial benefits of gambling for Grand Lake. Our newspaper opposed gambling,
and so did Grand Lake voters, by a four-to-one margin. Heemeyer was angry during
the campaign, and even angrier after the loss.
The second dispute occurred in 2000 when
the owners of Mountain park concrete requested authority to move the location of
their batch plant to a site next to Heemeyer’s Mountain View Muffler. The move
required a zoning change, which we ultimately supported, with conditions. That
endorsement, surely heightened his anger with the newspaper and its editor, me.
Breathless, Harry and I ran out the back
door. The bulldozer was now plowing down the building, right over my office,
walls falling as it worked its way toward us. Shots fired by sheriff’s officers
sounded tinny and small, insignificant.
Only then did I realize my foolishness. It
was Marv Heemeyer. He had a grudge against me. He knew where I lived, where my
wife and son were even then sleeping soundly. The house was not far away.
"My house is next. He will kill my
family." I thought to myself, now angry at myself for having lingered at the
office, all for the sake of a big story.
When the order to evacuate Granby had
come, I had informed the staff, all of whom had left quickly. Harry and I,
however, had stuck around. We hadn’t yet figured out who was on the bulldozer,
smashing buildings and shooting at people. I vowed to get some photos. Harry,
I’m sure, had similar thoughts. My photos were lame as the behemoth rumbled in
our direction. When the ground began to shake we retreated to the building for
safety – or so we thought.
Now running for my family’s life, I
chastised myself for my misguided priorities. Previously, before I had figured
out the story, I had had phoned home and left a message on the answering machine
that instructed my wife to stay put and not to go anywhere. I didn’t want her
driving into town, wondering what was up, only to be facing an armed bulldozer.
I was sure she had missed the evacuation call.
She was home, thank God. We put our son,
Sebastian, in his seat, I got the dog and we drove east, away from Granby and
away from the bulldozer. I was shaking with relief and dread. I was sure my
house was on his list.
But my family was safe. My pregnant wife,
agitated by the adrenaline of the situation, had a strong cramp, and we worried
out loud to each other that this was no time to have a baby.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Sebastian sat in the back seat, quiet. He knew something
And all I could think was how happy I was
to be safe with my family, making new life and feeling love while in Granby Marv
was embarked on a mission to sow death and destruction, wallowing in hatred and
Marv Heemeyer didn’t sow death, thank God.
Despite the destruction he caused, Granby thrives on, living to tell the story
of how Heemeyer tried to crush Granby and failed.