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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, June 11, 2004


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 building.

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 following.

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 Marv Heemeyer.

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 was up.

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 anger.

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.


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