There was once a sleepy little town nestled in the mountains of Tennessee, called Whisper. Population, 154.
It boasted a single engine fire station, a barbershop, a cafe and an auto repair garage where everybody took their cars to be fixed.
There was a one room combination police station/court-house with two jail cells that to anybody’s recollection had never been occupied.
The post office was in the center of town and mail, weather permitting, was delivered only once a week.
On top of the hill, you would find the local church where Sunday go to meetin’ services were held both in the morning and at night. The cemetery was right out back, where generations of relatives lay after their time on earth had been served and the angels had come to take them home.
What you wouldn’t find was a golf course, a local newspaper, a locked door or a gun. In that little corner of the world, the closest thing to a weapon was Billy Ray Beans’ collection of fishin’ poles.
He had one for every conceivable kind of fish and he liked to carry them around in the back of his 1950 Seacrest Green Chevy pick-up truck. If he wasn’t careful taking a curve, they would be catapulted out and go flying through the air like missiles.
When he came to town, Leroy the barber, would start hollerin’. “Look out y’all. Billy Ray’s loose again.”
Aside from the annual Harvest Ho-down and the much-anticipated Christmas Eve parade, not much happened in Whisper.
To the residents, it was and always had just been home. It was the kind of place where everybody knew everybody’s name and it was jokingly said to be illegal to be in a bad mood.
If you hadn’t heard of it, you were among the majority but on June 14, 1965, a tragedy befell the small town and with my help, it soon became renown.
I am a reporter for the Kentucky Free Press, located about 138 miles from Whisper.
What was assigned to be a story about an unfortunate event, became an obsession for me. As a seasoned reporter, I had to ask the usual questions of who, what, where, when and why but I went a step beyond the norm.
I took those questions to unexpected limits and the answers they rendered took a twist that would haunt me forever.
This is my story about the people of Whisper, the victims of the tragedy and the results that killed a town and changed my life forever.
To be continued_______________________