Interview with Tom Wicker
QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

That was D yard that the inmates were in.

TOM WICKER:

D yard, yes.

INTERVIEWER:

I want you to sort of, once again, kind of paint a picture for me of the last time you went into D yard. What was it like? What was going on among the inmates?

TOM WICKER:

Well, I think by then everyone felt a sense of the futility of what we had been do--

INTERVIEWER:

Could you include the last time--

TOM WICKER:

Well, the last time we went in, I'm sorry--

INTERVIEWER:

Stop--

TOM WICKER:

The last time we went into the prison yard was on Sunday afternoon. And I think by then everyone was feeling a sense of futility that was almost, almost funereal sense in a way because we observers felt, I know I did, and I think most of my colleagues did, we felt that very shortly, perhaps right away, as it turned out, it was the next morning, that the prison would be taken, retaken forcibly. We felt that a lot of people were to die if that happened. The inmates, I think, sensed in retrospect, my feeling is that they didn't expect so much to die because it's a peculiar thing, but prison inmates are not used to seeing guards and so forth with guns. They don't take guns into the prison. They see them with clubs and that sort of thing. And I think they really didn't anticipate what in fact was going to happen, or at least they didn't anticipate the, the magnitude of it and the ferocity of it. But nonetheless, this strange inmate society that it formed near the D yard, and the relationship that it formed between our observer group and that society, and the kind of limited freedom that they had had which at one time had made them very emollient about the whole thing which I think was beginning to wear off at that point, we all felt that that was coming to an end, that this strange fearful moment was about over with and in one way or another, however it might turn out. And I, I, I definitely had that feeling. And in the oratory of the inmates suggested that they had that feeling. There was a kind of a final sense about the whole thing. And it was really quite sad. As, as you recall, I interviewed for a TV camera that was in the yard. I interviewed some of the inmates, some of the hostages, and that is an experience that of course, I mean that, that's, haunts me to this day because ten of those men were dead the next day, you know, and they were all in effect pleading for help, and they were pleading to the Governor, they were pleading to me, they were pleading to everyone, and there was no help. So that was not a moment that one recalls with any great satisfaction of any kind.