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'Taps' in Glen Rock prompts social media 'firestorm'

Written by Abbey Zelko/York Daily Record | Apr 20, 2017 12:24 PM
glen_rock_taps_navy.jpg

Joshua Corney stands for a portrait outside his Glen Rock home on Saturday, July 25, 2015. Corney, a lieutenant commander, is serving his 18th year in the U.S. Naval and recently moved his family to Glen Rock, where he grew up. Corney plays a recording of "Taps" outside his home every evening at 8 p.m. in remembrance of military service members, and plans to build a memorial for local veterans at the bottom of his driveway. (Photo: Chris Dunn, York Daily Record)

(Glen Rock) -- For 57 seconds at precisely 7:55 every night, a melancholy military song can be heard echoing across the hills of Glen Rock.

Playing "Taps" outside his home has become a daily tradition for U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Corney over the last two years - and one that many appreciate, he said. Some sit outside and listen on their porch. Some have sent cards and thank-you notes. And some have stopped by his home, about a half-mile from downtown Glen Rock, to thank him in person for the daily reminder of the sacrifices made for American freedoms.

But for others, the song - which is played by the military at funerals and flag ceremonies and to signal "lights out" at the end of the day - has become a disturbance. Glen Rock Borough Council has heard multiple complaints in the last two years from neighbors who say the recording, played from a PA system every night, is too loud.

Joshua Corney, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, plays 'Taps' every night outside his home to honor service members and their families. Chris Dunn, York Daily Record

 

They planned to bring up the issue again at Wednesday's borough council meeting. In preparation, Corney posted on several Facebook pages Tuesday night asking for the community's support. But after an "extreme reaction" to those posts in which Corney's neighbors were chastised and labeled un-American, council member Victoria Ribeiro said, they became afraid for their safety and asked that the item be removed from the agenda.

"They are horrified that that's the way people responded," said Ribeiro, who planned to represent the neighbors at the meeting. "They feel that they do not have a voice and even if they did it would be irrelevant. They are giving up on attempting to address what they feel is a valid complaint."

Ribeiro said a neighbor initially complained about the music more than a year ago because it was too loud and reminded her of the death of her husband, who had served in the military. The complaint came around the time that Corney, who is also a borough council member, had added additional speakers to better direct the sound, he said.

The issue was brought to borough council, and it was decided that this was not a noise ordinance issue, but rather a neighbor-to-neighbor issue, Ribeiro said.

But after hearing more complaints about it over the last six months, Ribeiro said she feels this is no longer a neighbor-to-neighbor dispute, and it should be revisited as a noise ordinance violation.

Corney said he has spent about $2,000 moving, redirecting and slightly changing the volume of the speakers in response to complaints.

However, the recording still plays at 80 decibels at neighboring homes every night, Ribeiro said. That's about the same noise level as a hair dryer, kitchen blender or food processor, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

At Ribeiro's home, about a mile away, it plays at about 65 decibels or speaking volume, she said.

If the borough council decides his recording of "Taps" is in violation of the noise ordinance, Corney said it will also have to look at the church bells, the chimes and the carolers that sing outside people's homes every Christmas Eve.

"If they're looking to place a noise ordinance on me, they'll have to take a really close look at other things that go on in Glen Rock that everybody holds so dear," he said.

Ribeiro said Corney's recording of "Taps" serves a noble purpose and is well-intentioned, but creating a "mob mentality" on social media at the expense of his neighbors crosses a line.

Corney's posts on multiple Facebook pages Tuesday night - including the Southern York County PA page, which has more than 20,000 members - created a "massive firestorm" of opinions from people who didn't have the opportunity to hear why residents were complaining or what compromises had been suggested, she said. Some of the suggestions included playing the song without the PA system or only on select days of the year, such as holidays.

Corney said his post was not intended to cause backlash but instead to bring an issue he holds dear to his heart to Glen Rock and the surrounding communities. He plays "Taps" every night in remembrance of friends he lost while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and to serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices all servicemen and women have made, he said.

But he never expected such a large response.

The posts received hundreds of shares and comments from people, most in support of Corney.

"It makes me very happy," Corney said. "I thought I would probably get a lot of people complaining about this. It makes you feel good that the majority of people are supporting this."

When Ribeiro commented on one of the posts encouraging people to come to the borough council meeting to hear both sides, she was met with chastising and degrading comments labeling her and Corney's neighbors as unpatriotic, she said. One commenter said she should have to go through losing a loved one. Another said someone should go to her house and blast music in her yard.

"Creating a mob really scared those neighbors," Ribeiro said. "They are absolutely not interested in discussing this."

The comments and the original post on the Southern York County Facebook page have since been deleted. Corney said he would never condone name-calling and later published a second Facebook post encouraging people to address their concerns in a professional manner.

For now, Ribeiro said the "Taps" issue is off the table until borough council can figure out a way to discuss it without angry mobs screaming and hollering.

"I'm really sad that I'm not going to get to speak on their behalf," Ribeiro said. "At this point, it would be dangerous - dangerous to them, potentially dangerous for me. It's a sad miscarriage of justice."

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

 

 

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