Monday, May 4, 2015

Eddie Polec: The 15th Anniversary is Today

The high-school senior's brutal death rocked the city and instigated an overhaul of Philadelphia's 9-1-1 system.

Eddie Polec: The 15th Anniversary is Today

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the funeral of Eddie Polec. He was the  Cardinal Dougherty High School senior who was beaten mercilessly by a gang of baseball-bat-wielding thugs on Nov. 11th, 1994,  on the steps of St. Cecilia - the Fox Chase Catholic church where he'd served as an altar boy. He died the next day of his brutal injuries. His funeral, four days later, was so crowded with mourners that the neighborhood around St. Cecilia's was jammed for hours.

I could recount the whole sad and terrible story here, but I'll link, instead, to this piece, published in the Northeast Times on the 10th anniversary of Eddie's passing. 

For many of us, though, no recap is needed. We recall vividly how terribly Eddie's vicious murder rocked the city. Not just for the fact that it was a gang of marauding suburban teens who inflicted the blows that killed him. But because Philadelphia's 9-1-1 system failed Eddie so completely that night.

And yet in the awful aftermath of Eddie's death we also witnessed moments of incredible grace as his wonderful family - parents John and Kathy and siblings Billy and Christy -  handled their shock and sorrow with extraordinary dignity and resolve. They repeatedly called for calm, urging Eddie's grieving friends and the community at large to honor Eddie's memory by not partaking in the brand of violence that had torn him from them. And they refused to turn the teen's death into a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city. Instead, the Polecs pushed for wholesale changes in the 9-1-1 system.

I've reached out over the last few weeks to John and Kathy Polec, to ask how their family has fared in the last 15 years. They've not responded to requests for an interview.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to tell them what I would've told them, face to face, if I'd had the chance:

That I'm still so sorry for their loss. That I know I'm not alone in saying I remain inspired by the courage and character they exhibited during a time of unimaginable heartbreak.

And that we'll never forget their son.


Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.

Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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