Out of the blue, SOMOS, the lit group in Taos, asked me to do a Q&A with Katherine Ann Power on stage. I knew Katherine’s story. I bet most of you do, too.
On Sept. 24, 1970, Katherine, a student at Brandeis, was driving the switch car while three men, all ex-cons, and her friend, Susan Saxe, robbed a bank in Brighton, Mass. The money was supposed to go to the Black Panthers for guns — to end the war in Vietnam. One of the men murdered Officer Walter Schroeder, who left behind nine children. An accessory to the crime, Katherine was a fugitive for 23 years until she surrendered. She served six years in prison after pleading guilty to armed robbery and manslaughter.
|Katherine Ann Power, left, and me post-interview|
The Oct. 25 event in Taos was Katherine’s first since her probation ended last month.
I did my research. Rebecca Lenzini, who owns Knighthawk Press in Taos, lent me magazines from 1994. (Knighthawk was co-sponsor of the event held at the Taos Community Auditorium. The press has also reprinted her book Doing Time, Papers from Framingham Prison.)
I met Katherine the day before for lunch and a talk. I didn’t notice her until she greeted me outside the restaurant. Katherine could have been any one of the number of tourists or locals who pass that spot in Taos. This woman had achieved anonymity, I decided.
Katherine told me she would be open to any probing question.
Naturally, journalists don’t give their questions ahead of time. Plus that night we were asking the audience to submit their own on cards. During intermission, I chose those questions that, as we say in the news biz, would advance the interview. There were also duplicates and a couple that could be answered via other questions.
The first half of the event, Katherine read from Doing Time, plus her memoir-in-process, Surrender.
Then, for about 40 minutes or so, I asked and she answered questions. Katherine talked about the botched robbery, her feelings about the Vietnam War and “practical peace,” about being a fugitive, her surrender, being in prison, and what she has done since. The audience wanted to know about the other people involved in the fatal bank robbery, plus her family and friends in Oregon, where she lived most of her fugitive years. She talked about Walter Schroeder and how her actions hurt his family. One question: During your prison time, did you ever doubt your decision to turn yourself in? Her answer was a firm no.
I liked this one from the audience: What has happened to the rage we felt then?
The interview was filmed and once edited will be available on SOMOS’ website. I’ll let you know when that happens.