Afternoon Edition: Oct. 23, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Afternoon Edition: Oct. 23, 2020
An outbound Metra train travels past a memorial at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

Afternoon Edition signup

Afternoon Edition


Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

Another rainy afternoon is the in the forecast for today, with a high around 63 degrees. Tonight’s low will be near 34 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 47 degrees. Enjoy it, because more rain is in the forecast for Sunday, which will see a high of around 50 degrees.

Top story

25 years later, Fox River Grove Metra-school bus crash still haunts engineer, other survivors

It’s been 25 years since the terrible crash of a Metra train with a school bus that claimed the lives of seven teenagers in Fox River Grove.

But the train engineer still has recurring nightmares about it. The mom of a girl who died drank for years to escape the hurt. And a survivor who pulled through despite a fractured skull lost the memories of all of the years up till then, and still lives in pain from his injuries.

For Ford Dotson Jr., the train engineer who was operating Metra train No. 624 when it crashed with a school bus on Oct. 25, 1995, killing those students from Cary-Grove High School, the images from that day will haunt him forever.

“I remember just like it was yesterday,” said Dotson, now 70 and living in Hazel Crest. At the time of the crash, Dotson had been a train engineer for 19 years.

“That accident, it took a part of my life away,” he said. “That’s gone, and I’m never going to be able to replace that.”

On Sunday, some will gather at the spot where the crumpled bus — sheared from its undercarriage — came to rest after the impact.

Dotson won’t be there. “No, no, no, no, that would be one of the last things I would want to do — because of what happened there,” he said.

Michael Lucas, one of the survivors, will be there even though his memory of what happened that morning was taken by the crash — along with 14 years of his past.

“I am 39 years old, and I have 25 years worth of memories,” Lucas said.

When Lucas awoke in a hospital after 10 days in a coma, the people at his bedside — his mother and father — were strangers to him: “There was no emotional attachment to anybody. I knew that I was loved because my mom never left my side.”

His skull had been fractured from ear to ear. He had bleeding on the brain and suffered multiple spinal fractures. To this day, he said he wakes up every morning in pain.

“There were so many reasons I should have died that day,” he said. “And I didn’t.”

Debbie Owens’ oldest daughter Stephanie — who loved to sing and dance and whose feelings were easily hurt — had been on the bus. She was airlifted to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and died the following day.

Owens says she drank a lot after her daughter’s death. Then, one day, five years after the crash, she just stopped — after her “favorite glass” slipped from her hand and shattered.

“A switch went off in my head,” she said.

Her daughter Christina put it this way: “She decided to live and not die. She’s an amazing woman.”

Read the full story from Stefano Esposito here.

More news you need

  1. A Chicago Park District employee described as a pillar in the Englewood community has been accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend in a shooting that ultimately led to the death of a 4-day-old boy thought to be his son. Corey Deering, 39, faces two counts of first-degree murder and a life sentence if convicted.
  2. An 8-year-old girl is in critical condition after being shot in the head by a stray bullet last night while sitting on her living room floor doing homework in East Chicago, Indiana. Someone outside fired 16 shots from an automatic weapon, sending one bullet through the siding of the home.
  3. Public health officials warned today that half of all counties in Illinois have reached a warning level for the coronavirus as 3,874 more people tested positive for COVID-19 statewide. While that’s Illinois’ seventh highest daily caseload of the pandemic, they were detected among the state’s second-largest batch of tests ever: 82,256.
  4. Nearly three years since a clout-heavy Bridgeport bank was shut down after authorities uncovered massive fraud and the bank president was found hanged in the home of a customer, the federal investigation into Washington Federal Bank for Savings has taken a new turn. The feds have been scrutinizing a storefront video gambling parlor in Chicago Ridge that opened a few months ago.
  5. Halloween came early for the animals at Brookfield Zoo, who enjoyed some festive pumpkin treats this week filled with bones, bugs, fruit or meat depending on the species. See the photos of tortoises, snow leopards and other animals enjoying their treats here.
Subscription Offer
Support civic-minded, independent journalism by signing up for a Chicago Sun-Times digital subscription.

A bright one

Ex-Gangster Disciples ‘governor’ now distributing food boxes, not crack cocaine

James Yates was sentenced two decades ago to life in prison after a jury found that he was a “governor” of the Gangster Disciples in charge of distributing drugs for the street gang in Chicago’s south suburbs.

Today, he’s distributing a different kind of commodity in those same suburbs: food.

Yates, 51, was freed in April under the federal First Step Act, which allows imprisoned drug criminals like him to seek a reduction in their sentences because of changes imposed after they were sent to prison in the penalties for distributing crack cocaine.

WATCHDOGS_102520_09.jpg

James Yates, a former high-ranking member of the Gangster Disciples, formed the Revitalization of Robbins Initiative after his life prison sentence was overturned and he was released in April under the federal First Step Act.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Yates said he spent a lot of time in prison thinking about how to give back to a community he knows he damaged through drug dealing and violence.

“I had this strong desire to come back here and try to correct or fix some of the stuff that we played a part in messing up,” Yates said.

Last week, the Robbins Park District let Yates stage his food giveaway in a parking lot down the street from the suburb’s police station. As one member of Yates’ crew flipped burgers on a grill and another worked a DJ booth, parents pulled up in cars, kids in tow. Moms carted away boxes of food, clothing and blankets. Their children got toys.

Yates said he knows that many prosecutors, law enforcement officers and others will never believe he’s now a do-gooder.

“You always have naysayers,” he said. “Watch what we do. We ain’t looking back.”

Read Frank Main’s full story here.

From the press box

Big Ten football returns tonight with Illinois traveling to Wisconsin to play the Badgers at 7 p.m. on BTN. The Illini upset the Badgers last year, but Steve Greenberg wonders if they can show more improvement in 2020.  

If Northwestern wants to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season, the Wildcats can start by getting coach Pat Fitzgerald his 100th victory Saturday against Maryland (6:30 p.m., BTN).

Mike Clark has a look at players and coaches with local ties to watch for during this Big Ten season.

Our Bears experts have made their picks for Monday night’s game against the Rams (7 p.m., ESPN, ABC-7). Mark Potash and Jason Lieser review what the Bears’ offense needs from quarterback Nick Foles. And they break down the defense in the Halas Intrigue podcast. 

Finally, the Fire play the New York Red Bulls Saturday at Soldier Field (6:30 p.m., WGN-9).

Your daily question☕

What did you think of the final presidential debate between Trump and Biden?

Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you to tell us what you hoped to see in the final debate.Here’s what some of you said…

“A debate between two civilized human beings.”— Javier Martinez

“Some respect for our president would be very welcomed.”— Jayne Jordan Ferraro

“A real debate where candidates respect each other’s time and don’t cut off the other.”— Christine Fernandez

“Adult behavior by Trump.”— Vincent Garofalo

“The mute button actually being used.”— Aurelio Diaz

“The fly!”— LaVerne Smith Bell

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed?Email us here.

Sign up here to get the Afternoon Edition in your inbox every day.

The Latest
One man, 32, was struck in the head, back and leg, Chicago police said. He was pronounced dead and has not yet been identified.
“We need transparency now,” Tyrone Muhammad, executive director of Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, said during a news conference Monday. “ ... How can children learn in an environment where they feel like their lives are in danger?”
Lane starting pitcher Josh Katz retired Brooks outfielder Kendall Larry on his 114th pitch of the game, securing a 2-1 win in the Chicago Public League title game.
The singer-actress brings along her talented husband, her baby son and songs from her relatable new album ‘In Real Life.’
The Sox are showing signs of life after their so-so start.