East Bay Daily News Circa 2008
Serving Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland, Rockridge
On Mar 29, 2008 this noticed appeared on the home page of the East Bay Daily News:
This is the last edition of the East Bay Daily News. We thank the thousands of you who have turned to us for your local Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito and Emeryville news coverage since our newspaper was founded May 20, 2005. The Daily News Group, however, must cease publication of the East Bay Daily News in order to focus on its core Peninsula papers.
This was the East Bay Daily News website. The selected content is from the site's 2006-2008 archived pages.
Mar 29, 2008
Hit-and-run victim, 13, is on mend
Member of Prescott Circus of Oakland is looking to perform again with his friends
By Martin Snapp / Bay Area News Group
On Sept. 11, 2007, 13-year-old Charles Stevison of Oakland was struck by a hit-and-run driver and dragged for almost a block, severely injuring his torso and both arms.
His right arm was so badly mangled, the doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland had to surgically attach it to his body for months to aid the deep grafting process. Since then, many readers have asked how his recovery is going.
"Great!" said Charles. "I go to physical therapy every other day, and I lift weights every night to strengthen my wrist."
But his mother, LaTrice Ambrose, says it's been harder than he lets on.
"There were times during the first few months when he would scream in pain because it hurt so much."
Without the use of his hands, Charles was dependent on his family for everything, including feeding.
"The first time he was able to feed himself, two months after the accident, was a monumental moment," said Ambrose. "I was feeding him grapes, one by one, and I asked if he wanted to try it himself. It took him quite a few tries, but he made it."
Charles was in the hospital for three months and four days.
"And I counted every single day," he said.
The doctors initially predicted he wouldn't be well enough to get out in time for his birthday on Dec. 22. But on Dec. 4, he was released.
Ironically, his first stop was the Alameda County courthouse to attend a hearing for the defendant accused of the hit-and-run that injured him.
Next, at Charles' insistence, the family stopped at the nearest Nation's for what he called "my first real hamburger in three months."
Then they dropped by Prescott Elementary School to say hello to his friends in the Prescott Circus. Charles is one of the stars of the circus, performing under the stage name Taz the Clown. The celebration that night was purposely low-key.
"Nothing special, just hanging out with my family and watching some movies," he said. "I was exhausted."
But he had a bigger celebration on his birthday, when he and his pals from the Prescott Circus took BART to San Francisco to see - what else - the circus.
"We had cupcakes at the BART station, and everyone sang 'Happy Birthday' to me. But what made it special is that it wasn't in the hospital."
From the moment he was hit, his family and friends rallied around. One of his teachers came to the hospital and held a prayer circle in his room, and the Oakland firefighters Random Acts program donated a DVD player.
The Prescott Circus held a series of benefit performances to help pay his medical bills, and Bread and Roses brought a juggler to the hospital to entertain him. That meant a lot because Charles's specialty in the circus is juggling.
But his main support came from his family, especially his 10 brothers and sisters, whom he calls "my angels."
"My little brother, Michael, would keep me company when my mom took the other kids to school or ran errands. He'd wrap my bandages for me and clean them, and when I would get scared he'd sleep with me so I wouldn't be alone."
For months, his family washed him and brushed his teeth. His cousin Alicia gave him pedicures, and his cousin Tiffani gave him facials.
"These little things were important because Charles is such a clean person, but he couldn't clean himself," said his mother. "And he didn't want to be dependent on the nurses."
His stepfather, Leonard Ambrose - the man he calls "my dad" - literally moved into the hospital so he could be with Charles 24/7.
"He slept in the hospital every night, and when he woke up in the morning he'd wake me up and help me to the bathroom before he went to work," said Charles.
"And his mother will never tell you this," said Aileen Moffitt, director of the Prescott Circus, "but she was a tower of strength for everyone."
But all - except, perhaps, Charles - agree that the real hero is Charles himself.
"I never heard him say, 'Why me?'" said his mother. "One time we were talking about his friend, Gary, who was with him when he was hit. Gary is much smaller, and Charles said, 'I'm glad it was me and not him. I don't think he could have taken it.'"
He still wears a brace on his right arm, and he's due for more surgery on the left. And he will carry the physical scars for the rest of his life. There are emotional scars, too.
"He still gets scared crossing the street when the light changes," said his mother.
But he's doing his best to adapt. Instead of writing and eating with his right hand, as he used to do, he's learned to do it with his left. And he can juggle with both hands again, although he's had to make some adjustments.
"I can't turn my right hand all the way over, so I have to be much more precise than I used to be. It has to be perfect," he said
He passed a big milestone last month, when he juggled 25 balls in a row to pass the Prescott Circus juggling test, making him eligible to juggle in front of an audience again.
"I can also balance a broomstick on my chin again, but I still have a way to go," he said. "I used to balance a whole bed frame."
Though he's keeping up with his studies as best he can with a home tutor, he still can't wait until he goes back to school.
"I feel like I'm missing out on stuff, and I don't want to be far, far, far behind," he said.
The most likely return date is next September, although Charles would like to move that up to this spring.
"And I wouldn't put it past him," said Moffitt. "After all, he's beaten the timetables before."
To contribute to Charles' medical fund, send a check to Charles Stevison Benefit, Wells Fargo Bank, 1221 Broadway, Oakland CA 94612.
Fast-track security debuts at Oakland International
By Erik N. Nelson / Bay Area News Group
At first, Oakland International Airport officials were skeptical of the new program that promised travelers a quick trip through security checkpoints. The checkpoints, they argued, didn't get that backed up.
On Thursday morning's opening those same officials were praising the Oakland arrival of Clear, the largest of three private companies that provide what amounts to a fast-track service for airport security. The federal Transportation Security Administration allows airports to award contracts to the companies to provide the service for a fee. The company, which already operates its Clear lanes at San Francisco and San Jose Mineta international airports, opened one lane each at security checkpoints in both of Oakland's terminals.
"We have the other two airports in the Bay Area providing that service, so we have to provide that service," said Steve Grossman, director of aviation for the Port of Oakland, which runs the airport.
And customers are clamoring for it, according to Clear's founder, Steven Brill, at a press conference in Oakland's Terminal 2.
"We are now signing up 1,000 people a day," said Brill, who also founded Court TV and American Lawyer magazine. "In the Bay Area, we're about to verify, through one of our lanes, our 100,000th passenger."
Nationwide, Clear has about 124,000 customers, 25,000 of them who signed up at Bay Area airports for the service, Brill said. Clear members pay $100 a year plus a $28 TSA vetting fee. Seventeen U.S. airports now have these fast-tracked security lanes, all but two run by Clear.
The checkpoints are staffed by a greeter, a verifier and a concierge who guide each passenger through the process of swiping their translucent Clear card, verifying their identity through retinal and fingerprint scans - all members are pre-screened by the TSA - and walking their luggage right to the TSA carry-on baggage scanner.
A sign between the Clear lane and the public security line tells passengers that Clear members, which TSA dubs "registered travelers," may be allowed in front of other passengers who have waited in line.
The passenger is still required to surrender shoes and metal belts like everyone else, but the concierge helps gather up those things before and after scanning.
One of Brill's new customers, Tom Mead, is a senior vice president at San Mateo-based Webcor, a major construction firm that has built San Francisco high-rises and is now building a cathedral in downtown Oakland.
"I'm back and forth all the time," Mead said, between the Bay Area and Webcor offices in Los Angeles and San Diego. "This streamlines my travel time. Sometimes I spend an hour waiting in security lines."
The beauty, currently, of being a Clear member is making trips to the airport more predictable, Brill said.
To illustrate, Grossman said that when he was to fly with his family on the day before Thanksgiving, he allotted an hour just for the security line on that busiest of travel days.
"There was no line. We got through and had an hour-plus to kill," Grossman recalled. "I would have rather spent an extra half-hour at home," which Clear memberships could have permitted.
But the program has been criticized for providing little more than a pass to the head of the line, and no relief for other aviation security hassles.
"There is NO security improvement, only promises of enhancements in the future," e-mailed airport security consultant Stephen Irwin, who used to work at both Oakland and San Francisco airports.
While the TSA had yet to agree to give registered travelers any advantage over normal travelers in booking flights or avoiding questioning at check-in, Clear members are well-positioned to reap such benefits eventually, Brill told reporters.
"Our members have one of the only paths to effectively get you off the (so-called 'no-fly') list," he said, because they have already been screened by TSA and are positively identified each time they go through the Clear lane.