When the city council met for the first time since the shooting of Urban League President Vernon Jordan, what the council president chose to stress was the calm way Fort Wayne had responded. She called it "grace under pressure."
This sense of dispassion, of the need for a certain orderliness to life, is strong in the comments of residents, both white and black. This sprawling factory town in northeast Indiana is a place where people believe, as one lawyer put it, in "home and family and do right and go to church on Sunday."
The shooting has prompted a public drama as every detail of the investigation -- including the crisp $100 bills found in Jordan's pocket by hospital attendants -- is covered aggressively by the two local newspapers. A television station and a popular radio station interrupt programming to broadcast live the daily press conferences on the investigation -- no matter how routine.
"I don't think there is any deep sense of metropolitan guilt," said the Rev. Lowell Thomas, minister at the Concordia Lutheran Church here. "Just about everybody I've talked to is watching it develop. The city behaved itself by keeping its cool. They were rational, no running off at the mouth."
There has been fascination, and awe, at the parade of celebrities, including President Carter, to Jordan's bedside. The important visitors included officials of Avis Rent-a-Car and American Express on whose boards Jordan serves. A city official observed: "I don't know who they are, but they come in their own jets."
After a week of frenzy the mayor was able to sit back for a moment and brag.
Mayor Winfield Moses Jr. proudly told reporters that one national black leader had said, if this had to happen to Vernon Jordan, it was probably fortunate that it happened in Fort Wayne.
"We were able to handle it," Moses said.
Fort Wayne Urban League Director Robert E. Williams Jr. said in a newspaper commentary: "It is my immense honor to be part of a community where collective support in the face of tragedy has been so strong."
This cheery, no-frills, no-nonsense town (pop. 188,000) seems an unlikely setting for the still mysterious shooting. FBI and local police are continuing their investigations but seem no closer to discovering the would-be assassin than they were a week ago. Jordan, meanwhile, is staying on at Fort Wayne's Parkview Hospital to recuperate.
Fort Wayne is relentlessly blue collar, and without apology. The dominant tone was set by the German immigrants who settled here more than a century ago and still work in the city's big insudtrial plants -- assembling heavy duty trucks for International Harvester, appliances for General Electric, military equipment for Magnovox.
They don't worry about being fashionable. Big time rock groups fly a detour around Fort Wayne because local police insist on charging into the Coliseum here and arresting dope-smoking teen-agers. Other Indiana cities, as elsewhere, long ago adopted a more tolerant approach toward rock concerts and marijuana. Not Fort Wayne.
Social life tends to revolve around company bowling leagues, softball teams, fishing and hunting. There is strong resistance to gun control and it is easy to buy the kind of long-barrelled .30-60 rifle that was used to shoot Jordan. But the crime rate here is low. There are a dozen or so murders each year, virtually all a result of domestic quarrels.
Fort Wayne's racial atmosphere here is tranquil, if not altogether harmonious.
A new emerging black middle class of plant supervisors and accountants, insurance salesmen and hospital dieticians, tend to mingle easily with their white counterpart and many live in integrated neighborhoods. In most years recently they have thrown a "Black and White Ball."
While there were mild upheavals here in the late '60s, the disturbances were mostly rock throwing, not burnings, in the central city ghetto where most of Fort Wayne's 20,000 blacks live. The problems there can be described in the litany of the urban crisis -- high teen-age unemployment, rundown housing, the feeling by residents that police often harass more than they protect.
But the central city is hardly the classic urban tableau of broken glass and asphalt jungles. The blocks of little bungalows with peeling paint and high weeds resemble fading communities along Rte. 1 in Prince George's County -- not the stark slums of Anacostia.
There is not the same feeling of rigid racial isolation that one sees in Washington slums. It is not uncommon to see poor white and black children playing happily together on Fort Wayne's bleakest streets.
The cry that comes out of the black ghetto of Fort Wayne is a feeling of powerless and neglect, though not overt hostility to white society.
"Fort Wayne does have racial inequalities -- which do seriously affect the quality of life for many of our minority residents," Urban League Director Williams said in his commentary. "But I have maintained publicly and emphatically restate that these inequities are solvable."
These issues have gained new energy and Fort Wayne's black leaders are raising their presence in the wake of the Jordan shooting but the compelling question around town remains who shot Vernon Jordan and why?
Was this an attempted replay of the political assassinations of the '60s? Or was it something else -- a domestic soap opera gone haywire? Soap opera is the favorite scenario of both local and national reporters who keep asking police if there are any leads on any "jilted boyfriends."
The questions center on Martha Coleman, the 36-year-old International Harvester supervisor and Urban League board member who was with Jordan when the shooting occurred.
Friends of Coleman worry that she may have become a second casualty in the shooting, her reputation irreparably damaged.
Coleman's friends describe her as sophisticated, intelligent, direct. She has been an active member of the Urban League board in recent years and brought three tables from International Harvester to last week's banquet where Jordan was featured speaker.
"In every city you've got a few white liberals who want to belong and do their bit. She was one of them here," said Louise Dinwiddie, owner of Fort Wayne's soul-music station.
"What has happened is that she was the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's probably ruined her life in this town," said Dinwiddie. "I'm wondering if it had been a black woman, it would have been the same hullaballoo."