I don't need my alarm clock this morning, the thunder takes care of waking me up (not too gently I might add). It is windy and rainy, and as I open my blinds the sky lights up and BANG, the apartment shakes. My eyes adjust to the light, and I quickly realize it is pouring outside. Everything is wet.. and I only have two hours before my futon adventure is scheduled to begin. Last week was moving day. Today is "furnishing my apartment with used furniture I've found on craigslist" day. I've already enlisted my old roommate Rachael and friend John to help with the process. Being Sunday, I don't have to be at work until 1:30... so as long as the rain stops in the near future... everything should be fine.
12:30 rolls around and there is no sign of blue skies. The parking lot of my apartment complex is now flooded. I feel like I'm in a monsoon. Since Rachael and John work the rest of the week, today is futon day, whether it is raining or not... I better find a tarp. At 1 pm the three of us pull up to a garage apartment about ten blocks from my house. The weather is so bad it took us fifteen minutes to get there. I have thirty minutes before I have to be at work... and lucky for me I have a shoot at two pm. I quickly call the station to see if we can push our story back an hour. No go... it's a memorial dedication for fallen police officer Jared Jensen. Officer Jensen was killed 2 years ago while making a felony arrest... today an Eagle Scout is dedicating a garden in his honor.
I guess that means we have to move this futon quickly. We wrap the mattress in the tarp and John starts hauling it down the stairs. I run to open the door for him when SQUISH... I step in a big puddle of muddy water. My entire foot as well as half my leg is completely soaked. No time to worry about it now, I only have twenty minutes to load the rest of this, get it back to my apartment, carry it up three flights of stairs, and make it to work... We take apart the frame, stuff it in the back of my truck and climb into our cars to start the treck back to my apartment. As soon as I turn the car on I notice a glimmer of sun. No more torrential downpour... this has to be a joke.
Lucky for us it starts pouring again before we make it back. I don't have time to move everything so Rachael and John volunteer to take care of the rest and I head off to work... not exactly in the best mood.
By the time I get to work it is 1:45 and I'm drenched. From head to toe, there isn't a dry spot on my body. I'm cold, and bitter... what a perfect way to start the day. How many more hours till I can go home? Jeanette hops in the car and we head up north to St. Patrick's church. I'd like to speed so that we don't miss the entire ceremony, but the rain is falling so hard I can't see the road five feet in front of me. Brown water is rushing down the hill at the bottom of the station. Cars are wading through, hoping just to make it accross the intersection. We finally make it to the highway, but that too feels more like a parking lot then a major roadway. Bumper to bumper... perfect.
One thing that you quickly learn as a news photographer is how to get places quickly. Knowing shortcuts, speed traps, times of day to avoid certain roads helps, but nothing beats going 90 down the highway on the way to breaking news! Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating driving at speeds unsafe for road condisitons, or driving above the posted speed limit for that matter... Ok, well maybe I am, but only if it is for really good breaking news :-) This story unfortunately doesn't fit into that category... but I'm not against making exceptions...
Lucky for Jeanette (and myself I guess) I don't crash... and we make it to the church in less then twenty minutes. Time to get to work. We sneak in the back quietly and I snap my camera on the tripod and start shooting. There are about 75 people present for the dedication, all listening intently to Jared's brother tell a story about a camping trip they took together when they were younger. Apparently Jared used to think that he was the outdoorsy type... that is until he forgot his sleeping bag, socks and underwear on an overnight adventure into the woods. As I'm standing there I scan the crowd, and see not only the faces of his loved ones and friends, but also boyscouts and parishoners who did not know him.
As I scan, I can't help but wonder who would be at my funeral if I died. Would this many people still care about it two years later? Would someone that I never met want to dedicate a memorial garden in my honor? Jared's family sits in the front row, tears still streaming down his mothers cheeks. Some get up to share stories about times over the past few years when they were sure that Jared was looking down on them. Others just listen quietly, absorbing the moment for what it is. I stand in the back, disconnected from the crowd. My mind drifts far away from the overcrowded church multi-purpose room to friendships I've cultivated and lives that I've touched.
If I was to die tomorrow, and look down on my life from heaven, would I have regrets about the choices I've made? Would I wish that I had pursued a different career, or lived in a different city? Would I wish that I called my older sister more often, or tagged along on more family camping trips? As much as I'd like to be able to say no to all these questions, that would probably be a lie. There are things that I would change, if I knew tomorrow would be my last day on earth. For starters, I'd probably call my mother... even if it is elevn oclock at night.
As I stand contemplating the fullness of my own life, I notice a smile forming on my face. I didn't know Jared Jensen. I wasn't in the news business when he was killed. I wasn't even in Colorado. But still, I can't help but feel as if his death, and his continuing legacy, have some impact on me as well. Maybe I'm at this dedication today, because in his death, Jared is teaching me to live.
The rain stops and the sun comes out. Sitting on a bench in his memorial garden, I look up at Pikes Peak and know there is something greater then me out there. I'm by no means religious, but still, I can't help but feel moved by the greatness of the mountains, and the heat of the sun on my face. Walking to the car I make a promise to myself... to live for today, for this moment, this reality. It may not be perfect, but it doesn't have to be. It wasn't meant to be. It was meant to be life... as real, and tough and challenging (and sometimes soaking wet) as life is. We get into the car and start to pull away... BOOM- the rain starts pouring. I shake my head and think "Thank you Jared, thank you."