Just a scare on the square but response was impressive

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

When last we left you perusing this space on Friday, you might remember we were pontificating on "the most beautiful place in Putnam County."

Amidst it all, we were offering the opinion that looking out my little window on the world above Franklin and Jackson streets presents a view like none other.

And Tuesday afternoon that couldn't have been more correct. After all, the view from the top floor of the Banner Graphic building, overlooking the north and west sides of the courthouse square, proved instantly intriguing on an otherwise routine Tuesday afternoon.

For a little before 3 p.m., diverting our attention from computer screen, laptop and cell phone, we glanced out to see the north side of the courthouse square blocked off by Deputy Danny Wallace's sheriff's department car and emergency personnel as far as the eye could see.

A Greencastle fire truck had cordoned off the other end of Franklin Street as firefighters, City Police officers and more deputies milled about.

Meanwhile, gawkers began to mass along the landing outside the north-side doors of the courthouse. Downtown business people stopped in their tracks.

Not since the hotdog cart landed on the south side of the square had there been such a clamor downtown. Passersby craned their necks to try to see what was happening. A semi rumbling through the downtown partly obscured our viewpoint as we strained to make sense of what lay before us.

When the diesel smoke cleared, the view from the catbird seat here on the northwest corner of this crucible revealed activity within the renovated structure on the opposite corner at 24 W. Franklin.

Veteran GPD officer Sgt. Terry Eastham could be seen inside, and as he made his way back out, he gave a big thumbs-up to all those on the street.

"Nothing newsworthy," Eastham assured us a few moments later.

Yet, it was indeed newsworthy.

Newsworthy to know that our police and fire officials take things seriously.

Newsworthy to know they respond quickly and en masse when needed in an emergency, real or imagined.

Thankfully, in this instance, it was all a misunderstanding.

A downtown building owner, carrying a briefcase out to his vehicle, had apparently stopped to chat with another person and reportedly set the case on the ground as they carried on a conversation.

Moments later he jumped in his vehicle and unsuspectingly drove away from what would become an uneasy scene that spawned at least a few anxious moments.

For the unattended briefcase sparked alarm -- as it probably well should in 21st-century, "see-something, say-something" America.

Somebody saw something all right, and called the authorities, who responded quickly and professionally, ever uncertain whether it was indeed a briefcase disguised as a bomb or just an unattended tote with the remnants of Tuesday's baloney sandwich lunch inside.

"Nobody wanted to look at it, so I did," Sgt. Eastham said in jest, able to lighten the mood in the aftermath of what was now clearly a false alarm and a successful impromptu training session.

"Just an empty briefcase," the officer offered. "He was talking to someone, set it down and drove off and left it."

Left it to be observed by at least three City Police units, several Sheriff's Department personnel, including those already at the courthouse on other missions, a passing state trooper and three city firefighters.

Granted, it all seems so trivial now. So non-newsworthy from our sanctuary a couple floors above the action.

Yet when you digest the individual actions involved, you have to do as Sgt. Eastham did while leaving that corner building: Give it nothing but a big thumbs-up.

That's the view from here ...