Sarah Smith Nessel has been trying to step away from column writing for a while now. She has other time pressures and commitments and is ready to embark on new adventures.
And so, reluctantly and sadly, we’re letting go. For two years, she has brought humor and sharped-tongued insights about suburbia to 913. Her last column is on Page 28.
Sarah launched “The Bubble” with 913 in December 2011. The column was conceived as humorous look at our way of life here in Johnson County, and Sarah certainly did that. She skewered homes association rules and fur coat-wearing moms and outrage over naked art at the arboretum.
But she did so much more. Sarah wrote with a poignancy that brought unexpected depth to light subjects and sweetness to sad ones. She made some readers shake with anger and others shake with outrage along with her. Childhood hunger, rape, silencing a young girl with a shotgun. They weren’t topics we foresaw covered in “The Bubble.” But Sarah wrote about what moved her, and we couldn’t help but be moved along with her.
She made me laugh out loud and tear up, often in the same column. Like a recent column she wrote on the new Leawood Justice Center. Recalling that she’s had two brushes with Leawood’s finest, she wrote, “The responding officers behaved admirably, in that they actually responded and also refrained from rolling their eyes in exasperation.” She complimented the city on its nice new building and then turned the conversation to homeless children. “When the suburban criminal suspect gets substantially nicer accommodations than children who’ve had the bad luck to be born to loser parents, something is wrong.
“I’m sure the Leawood Justice Center will live up to its name,” she wrote. “I only wish justice was so easy to come by everywhere else.”
And a column she wrote about Ezkial Crapo, a 13-year-old Lenexa boy who died trying to run across Interstate 35, showed how she was willing to walk in another’s shoes when many of us want to distance ourselves. “The main difference between you and Ezkial — or, if you’re feeling defensive already, me and Ezkial — is simply that his luck ran out, and ours hasn’t. Not yet, anyway,” she wrote.
For her excellent work, she won a Heart of America gold award — first place — from the Kansas City Press Club, in a very competitive category, I might add.
We will miss her voice and a perspective that was uniquely Sarah.