By rian Brashaw
I had completely forgotten about it. Even though I had reminded myself several times and even marked it down in my calendar, I had completely forgotten about it. The Olympic torch was about to make its way through Omaha. A once in a lifetime experience and I had forgotten about it.
Christmas break has a way of messing with your head, as well as with your sleep schedule. It was so convenient to stay up until all hours of the night, playing video games, and computer games, watching re-run after re-run of SportsCenter. So I had become accustomed to sleeping a little late. I admit, I slept Rip Van Winkle late. Sometimes, I hadn’t gotten up until after 3 p.m. and still would total less than six hours of sleep. When I woke Thursday morning, it was well after 3 p.m. The problem was, this was the last day I had to register my new car. I rushed to the Douglas County Treasurer’s office just west of school and got there just before 4:30, right before they closed the door. I paid my $108 registration fee (a fee I severely underestimated) and left in a terrible mood. What next?
I zipped out of the parking lot angry and broke. Just a short trip east on Dodge, a turn here, a turn there and I would be back home to pout.
As I approached Dodge, I saw them. Hundreds of them. People of every age, every nationality, every walk of life waving flags, waiting anxiously. I just wanted them out of the way.
That’s when it hit me. The Olympic torch was coming through today. This gargantuan act of procrastination had landed me at the very site of Omaha history while it would happen. I immediately pulled off into a parking lot, breaking several traffic laws and nearly running over people in the process. I got out and became an onlooker. Up and down Dodge street were hundreds of supporters, and even more hundreds of flags. It was a site along 72nd and Dodge only equaled to the night when the Husker football team won the national championship. The scene was glorious and would have made any man, woman or child with an ounce of patriotism proud as well. Only two things spoiled it. The fans were not able to escape the vendors. Three of them at least came through selling anything that had five rings on it. The second was the three yahoos in a Pontiac Aztec heading west who kept yelling out “Vive la France!” Damn soccer hooligans.
And then they cheered. The torch was making its way up the road. I found myself right at the point where the torch would be passed. As one runner made her way to the relay point, the other got out of the Salt Lake City 2002 bus. She stood and waited in the cold for her light to be lit. As it was, she turned and began to run. With her she carried the spirit of all those who had seen it happen and all those who will see it happen. With her she carried the representation of the one thing that brings all the countries of the world together for the purpose of friendly competition and the strive of accomplishment.
That night, the flame would make its way into Omaha’s Old Market where a celebration would be held. For the first time, Omaha would have its name directly connected to the embodiment of the Olympic spirit. For all those who saw it, the Olympics have already begun.
*The Coup de Grace
As I turned to get back into my car, one of the men in the crowd turned to me, and asked if I wanted one of his flags. Surprised, I said “Sure.” The flag read I Saw the Flame. Indeed.