December 17, 1973.
To listeners, Shauna Moire started her radio show at 9:00 p.m. “Shauna Moire.” Even the name itself wasn’t all true. She signed her paychecks as “Sandra Moyer,” answered to her mother and father with that same name. But on the air, she was “Shauna,” a name evoking sunshine and sandy beaches and tanlines, a world away from the chilly lumber-powered town of Iverhill, tucked in the Otswego Valley of the Adirondacks. A warm name in a cold town. And “Moire” – she always pronounced it “Mmmmmm-wahhhrr,” purring the name in sonic ecstasy. Listeners may get sick of the music – but they never got sick of Shauna Moire.
Shauna’s normal Christmas routine was to play her “Christmas Charm Cards,” Top 40 artists who sang Christmas songs. But today, the music would wait for a hockey game. WIVR-AM, the Iverhill Valley’s top radio station, also broadcast Iverhill Feltons hockey and Iverhill Robins baseball games in season. The Feltons were struggling, both on and off the ice, and each day Shauna wondered if the team would broadcast their game – or if the team would fold and Shauna could go back to playing Christmas music.
Tonight, the Feltons would play. So Shauna would wait for the Feltons game to wrap up, then the post-game show, and then she could play some Christmas songs and sign off at midnight.
The hockey game echoed through the studio speakers, while Shauna filled out some last-minute Christmas cards. Nothing else to do, she thought to herself.
A flashing light on the control board. Someone called the request line.
Shauna reached for the black telephone handset. “WIVR, this is Shauna.”
“Hey Shauna, it’s Greg from the police station.”
“Hi Greg, how’s Susan and the boys?”
“They’re doing good, thanks. Hey listen, I’m calling to let you know that there’s a nasty car crash near the access road to Otswego Valley. Three cars on the side of the road, another in a ditch.”
“How bad? Anybody hurt?”
“I don’t know yet, but we have police and ambulances on the way.”
“Thanks, I’ll let the listeners know. Have a Merry Christmas, Greg.”
“You too. All the best.”
Shauna wrote down the information. Four-car accident on the access road to Otswego Valley. That road was dangerous even in good weather. And with snow … even using snow tires and chains barely provided decent traction.
She waited for a break in the hockey game. End of the second period. She had a few moments. She flipped a red switch. A red sign, with the words “ON AIR,” lit up.
“WIVR, Iverhill, Shauna Moire here, and if you can avoid driving tonight, especially near the Otswego Valley access road, please do. We have a police report of an accident, as soon as we get more information, you’ll hear it on WIVR. We hope you’re enjoying the hockey game, the Feltons are trailing Utica 3-2, and we’ll be right back to the action after these words from our sponsors.”
Shauna pressed another button on the control panel, and a special cartridge played a series of commercials for Wilson Bread and DiGi’s Diner and the 9N Bar and Grille and several other businesses. A few commercials, and then she would throw the broadcast back to the Iverhill Arena. Her ON AIR microphone light dimmed.
The telephone light flashed.
Shauna reached for the handset. “WIVR, Shauna Moore here.”
“WIVR, this is Shauna Moore, who’s there?”
Shauna hoped it wasn’t those kids from Iverhill Community College, with their phone calls asking for her personal phone number again. If they called one more time, she was going to have words with the Dean of Students.
More silence. Then a voice, timid and quivering.
“Hello, this is Shauna Moire, who’s on the other end?”
“Hi … are you really Shauna Moore?”
“Yes I am,” Shauna replied. “And who are you?”
“My name … my name is Joan. Joan Crandall.”
“And how old are you, Joan Crandall?”
“I just turned seven last Monday.”
“Well, happy birthday to you, young one. But are you sure your mom and dad would let you use the telephone? Do you have their permission to call me?”
“My mom’s not home. I’m here all alone.”
Shauna stopped for a second. She knew that several families worked long, two-job routines, and their children were often left at home to fend for themselves. “Are you okay there?” Shauna asked. “Are you warm? Do you have food?”
“Yes, I think so,” Joan replied. “But my mom’s not home yet. I was listening to the radio … and you said there was an accident. Do you know if my mom’s okay?”
Shauna thought. “Sweetheart, I don’t have any information about what happened. But if you give me your telephone number, I’ll find out and call you right back. Is that okay?”
Joan gave Shauna the phone exchange. She also described the car the family owned – a blue Plymouth station wagon.
“I’ll call you back as soon as I get some information, Joan. I promise.”
“Thank you. I’m so worried about mommy. She went to take some food to Mr. Ginsburg, he hasn’t been feeling well. And she said she’d be right home afterward.”
“I’ll call right now,” Shauna replied.
The phone call ended. Shauna first listened to the radio simulcast – there’s some commotion at the hockey arena, someone poured silver dollars onto the ice, causing the game to be delayed while the silver dollars were picked out of the frozen ice sheet – and then, her manicured fingers trembling, she dialed the police station.
“Iverhill Police, Officer Cardiff.”
“Greg, it’s Shauna at WIVR. Do you have any new information about the accident at Otswego Valley?”
“They’re clearing the wrecked cars away now.”
“Do you know what kind of cars were wrecked?”
“Yeah, hold on a second – a Ford, a Plymouth and two Buicks. The Plymouth landed in the ditch.”
Shauna winced. One of the cars in the accident was a Plymouth.
“Are there any injuries?”
“I don’t have that information yet.”
“Greg, I wouldn’t ask, but I just received a phone call from a little girl in the Otswego Valley. I think her mother might have been driving one of the cars in the accident. Crandall. She told me the last name was Crandall.”
“I can call you back later,” Officer Cardiff said. The call ended.
Shauna sat back in her chair, a feeling of dread tugging at her thoughts. Was that Joan’s mother in the wrecked car? If so … what does one say to a little girl?
She thought some more. Maybe another call back to Officer Cardiff. Ask for more information. Or just say nothing.
The hockey game entered the third period. As long as the game’s still going, Shauna still had time to make a decision.
But then the phone rang.
The phone rang again.
She slowly picked up the receiver. “WIVR, this is Shauna.”
“Hi,” said the little voice. It was Joan Crandall. “Did you hear anything? Is my mom okay?”
“Um … ”
“I called Mr. Ginsburg’s house, and he told me mom was there, but she left a long time ago. She should have been home by now. I’m scared.”
For all her years in broadcasting, Shauna Moire was unable to speak. Unable to find the right words for this moment.
“Please, Miss Moire. I’m so scared. I don’t know what to do.”
“I know you’re scared,” Shauna quickly replied. “I’m scared, too. But we’re going to get through this together. Let’s not think the worst. I have an idea. Would you like a Christmas Charm Card for tonight?”
“A Charm Card?”
“Yes. The minute the hockey game is over, I’ll play a special Christmas Charm Card just for you. It’ll be the first song I play. I’ve got the perfect song. You just wait. And by the time you hear this song … I hope your mother will be home to hear it with you.”
“Yes, please,” the girl softly sobbed. “I want my mommy to come home.”
“So do I, sweetheart,” Shauna said. “So do I. Let me go find the record, and you and I will think happy thoughts for Christmas.”
“Thank you. I’m so scared. Good-bye.”
Shauna walked into the next room, where WIVR’s albums and singles were kept. She knew the song that would work as a perfect “Charm Card” – it was a recording of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” by the Carpenters. Even though the holiday was still a week away, Shauna hoped for a little bit of Christmas magic to protect Joan’s mother and bring Joan and her mother back together.
The hockey game just finished up. It was a shootout victory, and a new player for the Iverhill Feltons scored the final goal to give the home team the victory. A few minutes for the post-game wrapup, and then the radio feed would return to the studio.
Shauna turned on her microphone. “WIVR, the voice of Iverhill and the Otswego Valley, Shauna Moire here, and I want to start off tonight’s show with a special Christmas Charm Card for my little friend Joan in the Otswego Valley. This is for you, sweetheart.”
Shauna started the record. Karen Carpenter’s emotive, soothing voice flowed through the studio speakers.
Another phone call.
“WIVR, this is Shauna Moire.”
“Shauna, it’s Officer Cardiff at the station.”
“Please tell me you have some good news.”
“I’m sorry. The driver of the grey Plymouth didn’t make it.”
Shauna’s heart sank. The worst feeling ever.
“Terrible accident, Shauna. Just terrible. We’re sending a car out now to the Valley, we have to tell a family that their father died in that car accident. So terrible.”
“Did you say father?”
“Yes. White male, 53, his grey Plymouth slipped on a patch of ice and crashed into a tree in the ditch. Three other cars tried to avoid him, they banged up here and there.”
“Thank you, Greg. I’m … I’m so sorry to hear this.”
“Me too. Some day they have to fix that stretch of road. Nobody should receive news like this, a week before Christmas. Gotta go. Good bye.”
As the call ended, Shauna thought for a second. The police officer said a man had died when his grey Plymouth crashed. But Joan said her mother was driving a blue Plymouth.
So she still could be alive.
One more phone call to make.
“Iverhill Police Department, Officer Cardiff.”
“Greg, it’s Shauna at WIVR.”
“I need you to do me a favor. Can you just go over and check on the Crandall home in the Valley, once the roads are cleared?”
“That’s the girl you were talking about earlier?”
“Yes. Maybe her mother was one of the cars that was delayed in the crash, but whatever the reason … please, just stop by and just make sure her and her mother are okay.”
“I can do that. On one condition.”
“Can I get a Christmas Charm Card from you tonight? Maybe ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ or ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’?”
“Whatever you want, Greg,” Shauna smiled. “Whatever you want.”