Thursday, March 6, 2003

Tips on hit-skip needed

Violinist fights silence yet again


Somebody knows something about the car that hit Henry Meyer.

They know the driver. He could be a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend.

Maybe they saw the wreck's aftermath. The blood, the scratches and the dents on the car are calling cards left after 3,000 pounds of metal and plastic slam into the skin and bones of a feisty but physically frail 79-year-old man.

Maybe they overheard the driver talking in a bar, on the job or at lunch about how he drove off after hitting this old man in the street outside Music Hall Saturday night.

If someone has seen or heard something like this, they have yet to speak out.

Meanwhile, Henry Meyer speaks with difficulty from his hospital bed. The famed violinist and teacher is in serious condition. Head battered, bones broken, he's fighting to recover from a crime of silence. Again.

Henry Meyer was jaywalking.

"Most people at Music Hall do that when they're going to their car," said Sgt. John Wainscott. The Cincinnati police officer responded to the hit-and-run. He's also overseeing the accident's investigation.

Meyer left a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concert at intermission.

He was walking to a parking lot across Elm Street when he was struck.

"That hit was so hard it made a big boom!" said eyewitness Ieiyon Brown. The nurse saw the accident from the passenger seat of a car parked at the curb by Music Hall.

She "felt sure" the driver was going to pull over and check on the man bleeding on the street's exposed cobblestones.

"But he drove on, and right as he turned the corner, he turned out his lights."

That prevented witnesses from getting his license plate number.

Brown described the driver as "a black male."

On that, all witnesses agree.

They disagree on the car's make and color. Could be a Ford Focus or a Toyota Camry. Light green or gray.

"The person was crazy to keep driving away," said Lt. Robert Hungler, the Police Department's traffic unit commander.

Since Meyer was "not in a crosswalk," the pedestrian was "more at fault," Hungler said.

Henry Meyer has cheated death many times. The Holocaust claimed his parents and his brother. But he survived Auschwitz.

"I noticed the tattoo on his arm at the accident scene," Wainscott said. The Nazis tattooed ID numbers on the forearms of death camp prisoners.

Auschwitz symbolizes the ultimate crime of silence. For years, the international community turned a deaf ear to Hitler's program of extermination. Townspeople living near the camp claimed they did not know what was happening behind the gate with the sign that lied: "Labor Liberates."

For years after World War II, Meyer kept quiet about the horrors in his past.

Two decades ago, he met someone who believed the Holocaust never happened. That colossal display of ignorance caused him to break his silence.

Today, someone needs to start talking about this accident. Call the police traffic unit at 352-2514. To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers - 352-3040 - and leave a tip.

"We solve a lot of hit-skips from tips," Wainscott said.

"They're not in it for the money," he said of the tipsters.

"They hear somebody talking and feel, `Hey, that's not right. He should have stopped.' "

Someone needs to put those feelings of outrage about this accident into words.

Henry Meyer has suffered enough from crimes of silence.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail

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