|Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay
(photo: IN Bicentennial Commission)
On a rather sad, rainy July 4 where every fun event had been rained-out, I learned I had been nominated to be a torchbearer. I remember staring at the message on my phone. It started to blur as I began to cry. I was a torchbearer!
Fast forward to 4:30 P.M. on Wednesday, September 14. I was standing in my torchbearer's gear on Hwy 37 outside Arby's, the designated starting point for my 0.5-mi leg of the relay. I was scheduled to start at 5:30, but Lawrence County torchbearers had received an email informing us that the torch had reached the county line 15 minutes early.
|Fun while waiting
Because Mom, Dad, Ed, and MaeBe were waiting at my "finish line" at 23rd Street, Noelle and Elizabeth, fellow BMS teachers and very good friends, had told me they would come hang out with me while I waited. Noelle was the first to arrive, but much to my surprise, even more friends came. Family, running friends, more BMS teachers, and even some of my students were gathering on the highway. More people had set up lawn chairs in the Arby's parking lot.
The appointed starting time came and went. I became nervous that all these people were going to be frustrated about standing outside on a warm day when they could be inside with Netflix and air conditioning. However, there was NO complaining. The atmosphere was electric. Hilary, another BMS teacher, kept saying, "This is HISTORY!" Arby's employees saw us all outside and brought us free drinks.
|Getting the torch from Lauren
Around 6:30, an hour later than planned, we saw Lauren Winnefeld approaching with the Torch Relay Motorcade. A bunch of geese squawked as they flew overhead in groups. Someone said, "I feel like we should sing the National Anthem." It was time.
Carrying The Torch
You might think it's a ridiculous claim, but it's true: the next four minutes and 31 seconds were some of the best of my life. I realize I was running, something I do all the time, but the circumstances were special. I was overcome with thoughts and feelings. Here are the ones I can put into words.
- I love Lawrence County, Indiana. I am so full of pride for our little community. In that moment, I was representing the county for our state. Because I am a student of local history, I also thought about our ancestors moving from Palestine at the river into Bedford, the same direction I was moving. That notion got me thinking about Indiana's and Lawrence County's 200-year history in general. Much has been done, much to do.
- This is once-in-a-lifetime. I will not be alive for a tricentennial. It's unlikely that an Olympic torch will run Hwy 37 in Bedford. This event will never happen again. I was doing something I would never do again.
- People GET this. At the start, all those folks waited patiently and eagerly. My family did the same at my finish. While I was running, people passed me in their cars cheering, phones out the window taking pics. The celebration was charged with elation.
- I am part of something. This was the biggest feeling for me. Sure, anyone could move that torch from point A to point B, but in that moment, that person was me. I was the torchbearer. It was my job to keep this statewide relay going. The event depended on me. I was needed. I was part of something important, historical, and exciting. I was a torchbearer!
|Torch selfie with Jimmy
You can see WBIW's live video of the first two minutes of my leg on facebook. I've watched it several times, but my mind's eye still remembers the perspective of doing it better than viewing it. It was unforgettable and moving, and I consider it a Top 10 moment in my life, easily.
When I finished, I passed the torch to my good friend, Jimmy Sowders. He took a "torch selfie" with me, and then began his part of the relay.
A bunch of us headed downtown afterward in order to watch Becky Skillman light the cauldron by the courthouse. Ed and I played some music on the Harp Commons stage. I was singing the Lawrence County verse I wrote for "I've Been Everywhere" when she lit it. MaeBe got her picture taken by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. Torchbearers, families, and other community members shared torch stories on a beautiful evening.
|Some of the torchbearers
I was a torchbearer!
Thanks to Mom, Ed, Hope, Hilary, Noelle, Jerry, Christi, the Bicentennial Commision, WBIW, and tons of others for the pics and vids!
|Running the torch relay
|Media car taping
|Even more running
|Mom with a sign
|Mom and Dad in a photo by the IN Bicentennial Commission
|MaeBe in a photo by the IN Bicentennial Commission
“To me, Indiana’s Bicentennial Torch Relay is the perfect symbol of community fondness and involvement across generations. It highlights the connections between our history of characters who made Bedford better, the folks who are doing more good works today, and the young people who will be Bedford’s hard workers of the future. My love of and pride in Bedford, Indiana, and Lawrence County runs deeply. To be named a torchbearer touches me deeply, as well.” —my quote in the Times-Mail on September 8, 2016, six days before the relay came through Lawrence County.
THANK YOU to Mom, Dad, Jeremy, Angie, and Mr. S. for the nominations, and to Marla Jones for the awesome organization of the Lawrence County portion of the relay.