Monday, February 23 1998, I entered the University of Oklahoma’s Dale Hall and sprinted up the steps. I had
been followed by the police all weekend and was almost terminally nervous. I got to my first class right on time,
ten-thirty, and settled into my seat. We began to watch a movie and I started to feel a little better, the darkness
acting as a cloak giving me a false sense of security. At around ten ‘till eleven I saw police officers in the hallway
through the small window in the door looking in every classroom. They looked in mine, my heart skipped, and
then they went on by. I walked out and got some water. I didn’t see them so I figured that maybe they weren’t
really looking for me. A few minutes later a detective showed his face in the window. I saw officers outside just
waiting. I thought to myself “If I’m the one they’re looking for I’m just going to walk out and let them get me. If not I’
m going home.”
I walked out into a crowd of eight Norman police officers, two plain clothes and four uniformed, and two OU
police. One officer walked up and said “So you just decided to leave early today huh, Joe.” He flashed a warrant
too quick for me to see it and said “Yeah, but you know what this is all about.” He came around me and cuffed me
while I was asking the detective who obviously was leading this as to what this was all about.
The officer behind me who flashed the warrant, Roy Williams, said “Bend over sir, I need to lock the cuffs” I was
talking to the detective, Steve Lucas, and didn’t hear him. “Bend over sir,” he repeatedly loudly “I need to lock the
cuffs!” At that point two of the officers pulled out their sidearms and put them in my face. I never thought in my life
that I would be looking down the barrels of a pair of police revolvers but it was happening. I can’t describe the
feeling and I don’t think I would if I could. It’s hard enough to bring up the memories I’m relaying to you now.
Describing what it was like to have my life threatened by those whom I had been taught to trust since I was a child
is just too much.
I could see the tension in their hands as they handled their firearms; this was a big moment. It would make
national news. Of course, I bent over and Officer Williams locked the cuffs. I wasn’t resisting in any way. I just
wanted to know what was going on and had no idea that the lock was on the bottom. It was at that point that I
realized what they were doing. They wanted to wait for me to come out after class ended so they could pick me
out of a big crowd and make a grand production. There was no reason why they couldn’t have arrested me at my
apartment or quietly interrupted class. It was their moment for fifteen minutes of fame.
I was paraded out through campus like a hunter would a deer. They had their prize with no regards to the truth
or the impact on an innocent’s life. People stopped and gawked with their eyes wide open. I was seen like a
leper. I was put in a car with Roy Williams and another officer. As he put me in Williams said “You wanna see how
far my nightstick will fit up your ass?” the side of my head just above the ear then hit the door opening corner.
The two minutes to the station felt more like two hours. I was hyperventilating, I felt sick, hopeless. As we pulled
into the station Williams looked back over the seat at me and said with his fist in my face, “If you don’t tell us what
we want you’re just going to rot in a cell until you do.”
I first met Shannon Miller in January of 1998. We had lived in the same apartment complex for about six months
but never said more than a neighborly “Hi, how are you?” to one another. I was a fan of many athletes including
her but never wanted to bother her. I was amazed that we lived close together but I didn’t want to be like some of
the overzealous fans that won’t give a celebrity a moment’s rest. She needed privacy like anyone else. We truly
met when I had found a small ferret running through the parking lot and was trying to find the owner. I was
bringing the little animal down to the manager’s office when I ran into Shannon. She was scrapping the ice off her
windshield and turned around and smiled at me. I asked her “Would you happen to know anyone who lost this
ferret?” Which is what I was asking everyone.
Very sympathetically she said “Oh no, I don’t.”
“Well I’ll bring her down to the office, Angie might have found out by now.”
As I got close to the office I saw that she wasn’t there yet. I turned around to go back and I realize my left shoe
had become untied. I bent down to tie it, placed Natasha (the name I would eventually give the little ferret) on the
ground, and she immediately climbed into the underneath of a parked car. I pulled her out and went back to my
apartment. As I walked by Shannon looked up at me and again gave me a smile as she looked at Natasha. I said
to her “Don’t take your eyes off these things. I put her down for a second and she climbed into the wheel well of
that car.” Shannon got a good laugh out of that and I went back to my apartment.
A few days later classes started. I had a full load including meteorology from 1:30 to 2:20 on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays. I had to have a physical science and my advisor told me to take either geology or
meteorology. Well, weather seemed far more interesting than rocks so I signed up. On the second day of class I
came in late. I had Africa since 1940 before hand and it was on the other side of campus. The lecture went into
overtime so I had sprint over to “Sarkey’s Energy Center” were my class was. I bounded into class with the lecture
already underway and sat in the first open seat. Immediately started getting caught up with the notes on the
board when a handout started to be passed around. I took what I thought was four, keeping one for myself and
sending the others to the people sitting to my left. I then heard a soft voice say “Do you have one more?” I
reached behind me and got one from the pile going around behind me.
“Here you are, I’m sorry” I said.
“That’s alright.” said the young woman and giggled.
As I looked at her profile I thought, “Is this Shannon?” While I had spoken to her a few days before hand it was
face to face. I hadn’t seen her from the side since we said “hi” the previous semester. I decided it must be her but
something was different. I then got it, her nose. She must’ve had plastic surgery during the Christmas break.
After following her career for so long I was surprised that I didn’t recognize her.
After class ended she looked at me and I said “Don’t worry, it’ll get more interesting.” She laughed and while we
were walking out I said, “At least we have an enthusiastic professor. That’s always good.”
She said “Yeah, it helps keep you awake!” She then turned, got on her bike, said “I’ll see you next time!” waved
and took off.
I saw her the next day after class as I was going out for a run. She looked to be going to the gym and I asked
quickly “Did I miss anything in the first ten minutes yesterday?”
She shook her head and said, “No, don’t worry about it.”
I figured it was about time she knew my name, “I’m Joe by the way.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” She said with a smile on her face.
The next class it was Shannon who got there late and sat down next to me. She gave me a quick greeting but
the lecture was a busy one and we were both quickly engrossed with our work. Class ended and we got up to
leave. The class seemed to mob it’s way out and when I got out to the hall I saw why. Down the hall going the
direction away from where I was going I saw Shannon quickly walking to the door seeming to be trying to ignore
something. I then saw what it was a large group of about fifteen students talking of harassing her for autographs
and what not. Shannon clearly had somewhere to go and didn’t look at all comfortable. I felt I needed to do
something, Shannon knew me and seemed comfortable with me and liked me. I made what later turned out to be
a fatal decision and ran down to be at her side. I got there and she looked up at me with a smile and a kind of
relieved look on her face. A girl who had seen me get down there and realized why said to the rest of the group
“No, let’s leave her alone. She doesn’t want to be bothered.” And the group dispersed.
As they left I looked back at Shannon, who was still smiling at me, and said “I guarantee you, class will get more
“I hope so, it’s a little boring right now.”
“Are you through for the day?”
“With classes at least, thank goodness. What about you?”
“Yeah, I’m going to go home and run. I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, okay!” she said and waved to me. She seemed very sweet and somewhat different than the person on
the TV screen. Her aura of celebrity had been melting from my mind.
The next afternoon I was walking down to the office due to a built-in shelf which had broken off after I put my
books on it. I had noticed a somewhat intimidating black youth selling magazines from door to door in, what
seemed, a pretty aggressive fashion. Shannon then pulled in got out of her car and waved to me. As I was
walking by I saw that this young man had caught her at the bottom of the stairs leading up to her apartment and
was delivering his sales pitch. Shannon didn’t look very happy about it. I walked over to see if he was bothering
her and she turned and gave me the same smile she had the other day. I got into it and let him give his sales
pitch to me as well. Shannon seemed to relax quite a bit. In the end it turned out that despite his aggressiveness
he was actually a pretty nice guy. With both bought magazines from him, Shannon buying Smithsonian for her
father and me buying Hockey Digest and a little later NHL Powerplay. Normally these things are done out of a
contest but in this case I saw the guy’s ID card and found out he was selling the magazines for his tuition. I later
told Shannon that it didn’t bother me to buy the extra magazine for him in that case and she said “No, not if it’s for
Shannon missed class the next time around. I had picked up a copy of the New York Times to see what was
going on back home. I read in the sports section that she was at a competition called “the Reese’s Cup”. No big
deal really, more of an exhibition than a meet. I tossed the article on the side intending to add it to the rest but
never got around to it. I just wasn’t thinking of her like that anymore. That Monday I was going to class just as
she had gotten back. She was getting her mail when she waved to me. I asked, “Do you want the notes from the
She replied “Oh, yes!” I handed them to her and pointed out a few mistakes I made telling her to ignore them.
“Do you want me to just give these back to you in class?” she asked.
“Yeah but don’t rush yourself.” I said “If you’re not finished you can take them back and hang on to them as long
as you need to.” She thanked me and turned to go back to her apartment. She dropped a letter, which I picked
up for her. The more we were around each other the more it seemed she liked the attention I gave her.
In class that day she sat next to me and handed me back my notebook. “Are you all through them?” I asked.
“Yeah, I had a little trouble with the handwriting.”
“Sorry about that, my hands are bad from boxing.”
“Well, I don’t have an excuse. My handwriting is just bad.”
“Don’t worry about it. I just use boxing as an excuse!” Not really true, boxing did wreck my hands. I just didn’t
want her to feel bad.
The more we saw of each other the closer we seemed to get. We always sat together if there were available
seats. Sometimes I would sit with her, sometimes she would sit with me. It all depended on who got there first.
We walked after class together, sometimes up to thirty minutes at a stretch and talked about just about
everything, our classes, our families, how we grew up, our pets, and on and on. One thing she seemed to be very
fascinated and impressed with was my boxing, the courage to do it in the first place, the intensity of my training.
Maybe she felt more like she could relate to me being an athlete herself. I wasn’t exactly sure about how I felt
about her. I think at that point it was the same as having a little sister. I’ve no sisters big or little so I don’t know
for sure but I did know that I really enjoyed our friendship. Long before this point I forgot about her as Shannon
Miller the gymnast. It was where her being on TV or in the paper wasn’t that big a deal. At this point I no longer
cared, or was even thinking, about her celebrity. She was now simply Shannon, my neighbor, classmate, and
friend. It wasn’t long until our relationship seemed to elevate.
One day I came into class and Shannon looked terrible. She looked flushed and seemed very cold in that warm
room. She had her arms wrapped around her and when I made a joke at the beginning of class she laughed very
feebly. During class her eyes seemed glazed over and she held a tissue to her nose the entire time. Afterwards I
asked her “Are you alright?”
“No, I’m really sick.”
“Do you need me to do anything for you?”
She shook her head and smiled. I asked her “I’m going to the grocery store after class, do you want me to pick
something up for you?”
She got a big smile on her face and said, “No, I’m alright.”
We walked through campus as usual, talking the entire way. She seemed so tired and looked as if she must
have been feeling absolutely miserable but also seemed very happy that I was there with her and touched by my
concern. She looked feverish and I was worried about her. “Do you have anything in your apartment like thera-flu
to make you feel better? I can bring some by.”
“Oh, that’s alright. I really don’t like to put any medicine into my body. The only thing I have is a bottle of Pepto
and it’s never been opened.”
Near the end of our walking and talking she stopped and said, “Oh, I’m going out of town again. Would you hand
in my homework for me?”
“Sure, where are you going?”
“Okay, no problem.” This was the place we usually parted at anyway so we said our good-byes. That benefited
me, I was having some trouble with the formulas we had to know for class. Shannon knew more math than I did
and I was able to see a little clearer on how it was done. She was dressed as if she was going straight to the gym
and that had me worried. Intensive exercise when you’re sick will only make it worse and being a former boxer I
knew just how thick-headed athletes can be when it comes to training. “Go home and get some sleep,” I said as
we went in the opposite directions.” You need it!”
“Okay, I will!” she said with a big smile on her face.
I went to the store thinking about her and worrying. I felt that she had probably gone to the gym. When I came
back a half an hour later I saw that her car was there. “Thank god,” I said to myself. “I thought she was going to
give herself pneumonia.”
The next morning I was walking out to get the bus to class when I saw Shannon getting in her car. I walked over
and asked, “How are you feeling?”
“A little better, thanks.”
“Do you want me to bring the notes over after you get back?”
“Oh that would be great, thanks. I should be back by Monday morning at least.”
“Okay, I’ll bring them up. Is that your apartment?” I asked while pointing up to the second floor.
“Hmm hm, that’s right. If I’m not there just leave it under the mat.”
Shannon got back the day before. I saw her at the mailboxes when I pulled in after going to the grocery store. I
went up to her apartment with my notebook and she answered the door with a phone nestled between her chin
and shoulder. I gave her the notes and we arranged for this time for her to call me when she was done. She went
into the kitchen and got me a pen while talking with whom I assume was her agent. I went back and maybe an
hour and a half later I got a call “Hi, this is Shannon. I’m done with your notes.”
I went over to her apartment and the way she greeted me was a little surprising. When I came over before she
was dressed in a T-shirt and a baggy pair of shorts. When I came over just a short period later she was wearing a
black, form fitting, low cut top. A white, short sleeved, open, button down shirt which did nothing to hide her form.
A gray pair of slacks and black leather boots. Before she had her hair up in a frazzled ponytail but this time she
had it down and well brushed out. I thought at first that maybe she was expecting someone other than me but
when I looked over her shoulder I saw two baskets of laundry and a whole pile of open textbooks. It was obvious
she was doing housework and studying, this was at eight-thirty at night. I was very surprised at the way she
presented herself to me and my very honorable offer came out with my full stutter which I had spent years
overcoming. “I-I-If y-you have any tr-trouble with the notes I-I’d be happy to meet with you and help you out.” I
hadn’t done that since I was fourteen, how embarrassing.
“Well, I can’t right now. I have all this laundry and six books to read for history.”
“I didn’t mean now,” calming down “I meant maybe later on in the library.”
“Okay, when I have some time that would be great.”
I went back to my apartment not really sure what to make of this. I liked Shannon very much and the idea of a
possible relationship with her wasn’t out of my mind. I really didn’t find her all that attractive though when you got
down to it. She’s cute but not beautiful when you see her in real life. Kind of plain actually. This started to change
things, I called my friends and my brothers and asked what to make of this as I wasn’t the most experienced
person in such matters. Not a prude but no Don Juan if you know what I mean. The vote was unanimous and
when you consider more than half of the people I talked to were female I think it was pretty much on the mark.
“Joe, this girl likes you and you obviously like her. Ask her out!”
However I was very much afraid of sacrificing our friendship. Also I wasn’t sure myself if that was indeed how
she felt about me. This changed the next day at class.
Shannon and I sat down together as usual. We were getting ready to leave when she said “I have to talk to the
professor for just a second.”
I asked, “Sure what’s going on?”
“I have to go out of town for a week. I just wanted to make sure it was okay.”
“Where are you going?”
“Uh, Hawaii.” she said very sheepishly, like she was embarrassed that she was going there and skipping class.
Afterwards as we were walking together I asked her “Do you ever get time off? It seems like you’re gone every
“I’ve been really busy lately” and then looking up at me in my eyes “but I’ll have a lot more free time after I get
back.” I took that as a signal.
Copyright 1999 Joseph Vogt