On March 21st we attended a presentation and book signing at Our Saviours Lutheran Church near Inwood, Iowa. This was accompanied by an unhealthy healthy dose of pie. The reason for this event was a new book by Phil and Sandy Hamman called “Gitchie Girl Uncovered.” You can find the book on Amazon by clicking here.
In our previous post which you can read here, we visited the site of the Gitchie Manitou murders in order to increase our understanding of the subject. Gitchie Manitou State Park was the site of a grisly mass murder of teenagers back in November of 1973. You can read more here. “Gitchie Girl” refers to Sandra Cheskey, the lone survivor of the attack. Both Caitlyn and I had read the book, “Gitchie Girl” and wanted to see the location ourselves. Upon reading the second and newest book, “Gitchie Girl Uncovered.” there was new information and details released about the massacre. I can’t say I enjoyed reading the book due to the subject, but I did really appreciate the stories of the people involved.
On this night we arrived at a packed church full of people, in fact there wasn't any extra seating. Some people were forced to stand up in the back of the auditorium. For the presentation, Phil Hamman did most of the talking. I was impressed with the simple, down to earth, and factual presentation he had. Phil wasn't just here as a salesman for a book, he was here to talk about something that he was passionate about.
I had always had at the back of my mind a question mark about why someone would write two books about this event. Wasn't one book enough?. It seemed almost disrespectful to the people involved to just keep digging up an ugly piece of the past. My prejudice was proved wrong as I listen to Phil explain why he wanted to write the book. Phil was a high school teacher at a high school down in Sioux City, Iowa at the time of the massacre.
Sandy said during the presentation "As we went around to places like this people wanted to know about Sandra because they are very drawn to her and her personality. I realized that Phil had a local connection and knew some of the people involved. It wasn't outsiders that were writing these books, but rather one of "our own" telling a tragic story, a piece of our history about "our" people. My attitude and opinions were changed.
After the presentation a question and answer session was held. People got to ask Sandra questions, but more interesting were the audience members who spoke up about their experiences. Several people in attendance mentioned things about the trial of the murders that was interesting since they had been in attendance at the trials. This gave the presentation a totally unique spin. Here was history and that history was in the people.
Once the question and answer session was over. the crowd gathered for pie.
The pie was provided by members of the Inwood Historical Society. These volunteers were sponsoring this event as a fundraiser for their organization. These men and women did a wonderful job both making the food and serving it.
For only a few dollars you could get pie and ice cream...and a story about a grizzly mass murder.
The crowd gathered in the foyer and got their fill of pie as people lined up to get their copies of the new book, as well as to meet Sandra. Here she is getting mobbed by people wanting to hear what she had to say and get her autograph signed into the book.
Sandra is an amazing woman. I think a lot of us wouldn't have been able to go through what she did and then rebuild our lives. I felt like I was in the presence of a great person when I was in the room with her. Phil and Sandy have done an awesome job writing her story and I think you can take it in a couple different ways. You can either dwell on the evil that happened back in 1973 or you can look at Sandra as a survivor that can serve as a wonderful role model for those who have gone through trauma. It's not easy for her or anyone else to deal with the weight of trauma, but you can be a survivor. It's also nice to hear that Sandra never "got over" what she went through, because all too often people trauma survivors to "just get over it" and move on with their lives.
The event was a success and the night was a wonderful community activity. It was wholesome and educational and a great chance to see the best of our community.