That experience, that “happening” teaches us nothing, except maybe a false sense of merit or justification.
The lessons we learn about ourselves happen when we are knocked off that perch and tumble many miles below the earth’s surface. Where there is no air. Where the party’s over.
Looking back on the summer of 1972 brings back such a memory.
My musical group was experiencing some success as a “house band” in a local Indiana Holiday Inn. It was the happening place to be any weeknight. Always packed. Always party central.
There were two Holiday Inns in town then, today there are none. In 1972 a new district manager came to town to run the Inn on the other side of town. He liked our little band a lot. In fact he called us in for a special meeting. Two of us went to his office to see what he wanted. We figured he wanted us to leave the East Side H. Inn and move to the West Side H. Inn.
Nope. He wanted us for the Holiday Inn in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. When he told us that, I remember my senses shutting down, my breathing almost stopping. WHAT?
His company owned quite a few franchises of the Holiday Inn and St. Croix was one of them. The manager opened his calendar for us and pointed at December. This was late-August, 1972 so he said we needed to get passports for our families (yes we were going to take our kids over Christmas vacation) and he would book us for a two week gig. FUN!
Air fare, a good nightly fee, plus 50% off of our food. How could this not be the highlight of our lives? Three guys in our ‘20s, just playing music for the love of it. No interest in traveling, recording or “Making It.” Suddenly we were being offered a gig in the Virgin Islands.
I remember approximately six or seven days of cloud-walking.
On September 6, 1972, eight Americans were massacred playing golf at the Fountain Valley golf course in St. Croix. The Island declared Marshall Law, all in and out flights were cancelled, hotels were shut down and a massive man-hunt began for the five shooters. They were found and arrested five days later.
However, tourism STOPPED for a few years. Within days of the tragedy, our contract dates were declared null and void. No Caribbean Island gig for our band.
Interesting enough when I got the news that we were NOT going to get our gig in St. Croix, I felt the same numbing loss of senses. Disappointment swirled around my brain and flushed the exhilaration out.
That horrible massacre in St. Croix became a fixation, even to this day and I have followed the news about it over these past forty three years.
The massacre was a robbery gone bad and the leader of the five shooters, Ishmael LaBeet started firing his automatic rifle at anybody and everybody. He was a recent Vietnam Vet who was living on St. Thomas Island and decided to pull this huge robbery of the country club (now called Carambola Resort).
All Five murderers were convicted and sentenced to eight consecutive life terms in Federal Prison.
Years later, Ismael LaBeet filed a civil law suit claiming mistreatment.
In 1984 the case was brought to trial. LaBeet lost his case and was put on a DC-10 and flown back to Federal Prison. He asked to use the rest room. He came out of the airplane rest room with a gun, took over the plane and ordered the pilots to fly to Cuba.
It is believe Ismael LaBeet is still in Cuba today. He would be 68 years old.
And now you know the rest of the story.