By CAROLINE HAILEY
Carroll County Times
TANEYTOWN, Md. (AP) — Jerry Gooding was just a few days shy of his graduation from the Maryland State Police Academy in Pikesville when he and about 30 other trainees were woken up in the middle of the night to respond to a nearby plane crash.
It was Dec. 8, 1963, and Pan Am Flight 214, traveling from Baltimore to Philadelphia, had just crashed near Elkton after being struck by lightning while waiting to land during a storm.
All eight crew members and 73 passengers on board died.
Gooding, of Taneytown, worked 18 hours straight after he made it to the crash scene and remembers being amazed at the lack of human remains found.
“There was almost nothing recognizably human,” Gooding said. “It was as if everyone on board just vaporized.”
Gooding and about 60 other responders spent much of the time walking arm to arm in a straight line, trying to find any remains or items among the darkness and mud.
At some point during the night, when Gooding was standing over a large hole where an engine was thrust into the ground, a photographer snapped a shot of him.
The photograph was picked up by The Associated Press and was printed worldwide.
His cousin phoned from England to let Gooding know he was on the front page of the London Times.
After the crash, Gooding went on to have a 25-year career with the Maryland State Police in Carroll County, part of which was spent overseeing the resident trooper program, but his experience as a rookie at the Pan Am crash site is still the memory that stands out most to him.
Gooding retired from the police force in 1989 and spent a few months working as the director of campus safety for McDaniel College before starting at the Carroll County Circuit Court, where he is now the bailiff coordinator.
“I’m still kind of a police officer in a way,” Gooding said. “All of the bailiffs are retired state police officers and that
helps us a lot.”
He said his years with the police helped him develop a sense for danger that he uses in his daily life at the court house.
“You know how to perceive and read body language, you can judge from the tenor of voices and you start to get a feel for when things are about to go bad,” Gooding said. “One of our strengths is being able to intervene before things do get bad.”
One time, after a child support hearing, Gooding noticed that the mother involved, who had been ruled against in the hearing, was clearly agitated. He started to walk toward her to try to avoid an altercation, right before she threw water on the father involved and his attorney.
Another time Gooding became suspicious of the behavior of a man entering the court house security check point. After doing a body search, Gooding found a small metal pipe and later found drugs on the man, who started to assault Gooding before being subdued and arrested.
Gooding said most of the incidents bailiffs deal with don’t pose a serious threat of danger, but it’s vital to have proper training and experience to handle the unexpected.
While Gooding is from Rockville, he has stayed in Carroll County since coming here in 1963.
“My wife and I have a little farm in Taneytown that we love,” Gooding said. “This area suits my temperament better than
Rockville. I like to hunt and fish and this is the perfect area for that.”
Gooding and his wife, Barbara, a retired Westminster High School English teacher, also enjoy hiking and traveling to places such as Washington state, where they recently kayaked.
Not having to worry about the daily stress of a police officer is nice, Gooding said.
“The phone call at 3 in the morning is what I don’t miss,” Gooding said. “If it happens now, it’s usually a wrong number, but it still gets my heart pounding.”
Regardless, he looks back on his time with the state police fondly, he said.
“It was nice to be part of such a professional organization,” Gooding said. “We were all there for the same cause.”
Gooding’s time as a police officer started with him living in the Westminster barrack for the first four years after he graduated from the police academy.
“If something bad happened while you were sleeping, they would rouse you out back to work in a heartbeat,” Gooding said. “Sometimes, as a joke, you’d get a K-9 thrown on you in the middle of the night.”
For Gooding, as for many other police officers, the ’60s and ’70s were an especially busy time.
“You had a ton of civil strife and prison riots at the time and student unrest about the Vietnam War,” Gooding said. “We had riot gear in our cars all the time during those times.”
Jim Huber, who has worked under Gooding both at the state police and now the court house, said he’s been a great mentor over the years.
“He’s a heck of a nice guy,” Huber said. “He’s easy going and shows you that you can always have fun in your job.”
Bill Foxwell, who works with Gooding now, said the bailiffs love to joke and make fun of each other, and Gooding is no exception.
“Did Jerry tell you he was a bull rider?” Foxwell said, referring to a 1991 incident where Gooding was attacked and nearly
killed by a neighbor’s bull.
“Oh, I think he was on the wrong side of that bull,” Huber said. “I don’t think he lasted but a few seconds.”
In addition to the temperament of the county, it’s the local people that make living in the area special, Gooding said.
“Carroll County people are hardworking folks,” Gooding said. “I can honestly say that in all my years working as a police
officer and now at the court house, I’ve met way more good people then problem people.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)