Thursday, November 19, 2009

My day with the Flame-Dec 18 -Day 32

You can't imagine the nervousness, excitement and disbelief I was in on the day of my run. I was working at Alliance Communications in those days and worked only evenings. I was on the schedule to work an ungodly 13 shifts in a row.. from 3pm to 11pm and the last shift was the day of my run. The company broke down and gave me the night off so I could do the run (but not without some foot-stomping on my part)
We had received information at some point in the mail as to how to dress for the day.. depending on the weather conditions. I had long johns and a turtle neck and who knows what else. They were giving us our running outfit once we got to the Pre Run location. It was an amazingly well coordinated event when I arrived. Terry and the girls, my mother in law, Joan,and my sister in law, Kelly were with me and dropped me off 2 hours before my run. They went off and found a spot along the crowded country road to watch for me.
We had rented a video camera, which was pretty high tech for the time. It was as big as a small car, and you could fit a VCR tape right into the machine. Kelly was the camera man for the run.

The 2 hours before the run was almost as amazing as the run itself. There were 10 of us on my team. We would each run a full kilometer. We would be the team that goes through Gananoque and halfway to Kingston. The ten of us stayed together for that day... really, and to share such excitement with these people from all walks of life, and all different stories was amazing. We truly were like family by the end of it. After we got our outfits on, we sat around in an organized group, adrenaline surging..
We each were asked questions about our particular quest for the torch, and this really opened the conversations up. Their stories were amazing. One lady put in 1000 ballots; she asked for 6 different days. They explained that the choosing of names was done by physically drawing names out of boxes in the order of which time slot you had. Not locations so much. Each one was giving a time... I was 1:53pm by the way, 68th runner of the day. Anyway, the lady who had 1000 ballots... her ballot was drawn... to run right past her Bed and Breakfast home & business right in the middle of her home town. Another girl was running because her brother put in 39 ballots for himself and put ONE in for her... she got picked. The guy running after me, Mark Owen, was an 18 year old boy from Brockville who was in his first year of university in Maine (I think). He put in one ballot. The date of his run was the same day as his last exam for that term. He wrote a letter to ask permission to have the day to go to the run, and he was denied. He came anyway!
We laughed with each other, we signed each other's certificates, we posed for pictures and we chatted, chanted and danced the whole time we were together..
We were constantly cheering, and as they walked us out to our awaiting Caravan, we sang, held hands and shivered with excitement. We got in this big motor home type vehicle and were driven out of town to wait for the last runner of the team before us. We all piled out of the motor home and did some warming up (as if any of us needed that!!)... Our team had two torches with us.. both unlit. They were full of fuel.. ready to be lit, as the last runner of the team ahead of us had very little fuel left in his torch. Apparently they radioed ahead to tell our coordinator. Each torch burns for 45 minutes, so we needed to have two ready, since each of us would run approximately 8 minutes. We got to hold the unlit torch and it was humbling, I must say. We waited by the side of the road, as the runner appeared ahead. We screamed and cheered (not another soul was around us, just 10 crazy torchers). The last runner, lit the torch of our first runner... and I burst into tears... a few of us hugged and then we were rushed into the motor home to start our trek. That was the last time I got to see the torch until it was placed in my hand. We were always ahead of it, and we missed the excitement of the crowds, but we hugged and cried as each person was dropped off at their spot on the highway! The radio in the motor home was filled with communication between the vans and trucks and people that made up the entourage.
I was number 8 of the ten... and as we dropped off each person, we became a little more quiet, a little more nervous... when it was my turn, I got my final hug and I was dropped on the side of a deserted highway... all alone. I waited.... only 5 minutes... I started to cry immediately when the torch was put into my hands, and I apologied to my "guard". She laughed and said everyone cried!
In the video you will see, it starts with a full minute of my hubby, my two little daughters, Michelle in Terry's arms, and Stephanie with my mother in law. Kelly was carrying the 50 lb camera, and was getting a lesson on how to work it, and she scanned the horizon to show the massive crowd of people that were there to cheer me on!
We were told in our Pre Run, we were NOT to stop at all in the crowds. We were NOT allowed to let anyone touch the torch..... hee hee... but no one was going to stop me from letting my kids touch the torch! There is only a few seconds of me.... but I am so happy to have this memory on film.

You will notice the the Torch Guard changes sides when we come close to the scary guy on the side of the road, in case he mobs me. That was Terry. She was there to protect me!! I was the token "mom" on our team and had the youngest kids, so the man who talks to my kids is one of the coordinators. I told him that my kids were GOING to touch the torch... and he cheered
me on!
The moment I got to share the flame with my family, I felt so victorious, and energized, I really forgot that I was carrying the torch. My next 5 minutes flew by and I almost forgot to wave at a small cluster of farm folk who drove to the end of their driveway to see the Torch go by. And then it was over.
My student friend, Mark, stood waiting for me, and I slowed to a crawl when I got closer to him. I didn't want to give him the torch. He snapped this picture of me, and it says it all. I was happy and sad....~... exhilarated and exhausted. Months later when he mailed the picture to me (how sweet he was to take the time to send it, eh) I said to Terry, this is it. This is the picture that says it all. Its over :(
After I passed him the torch, we hugged yet again, and I was left to stand, alone again. A few cars back, there was a van, that scooped me up. And there I sat, with 7 of my teammates. Some stared straight ahead, some cried, but no one spoke. It was a long quiet drive back to the center, where all our belongings were..and where we were to meet our families. Once there, we mingled and chatted, we hugged one more time and then .... it was really over.

Months later, on Feb 13, I watched TV as my torch was carried up several steps and set to ignite the Olympic Torch in Calgary. I cried hysterically again, knowing I had been a part of this amazing event.
I invite you to click here and see the end.. the lighting of the TORCH in Calgary!

Thank you for allowing me to "Share the Flame" with you over the last few days. It was very important for me to write this week of blogs, to explain the whole story. I will never forget the experience, but it is so nice to have it in a venue that I can save and share.

Tomorrow, the 2010 Olympic Torch will be coming through my little village and I will be there to cheer and wave. I will know in my heart what those torch bearers are feeling, and I will cry.


bargello said...

This day is so etched in your mind, it must have been up there as one of your "best of all times" days! My friend Barb is carrying the torch Nov 27th and she is SO EXCITED, and we will be there to support her - even though it is at the crack of dawn and an hour out of town (town being F'ton)...
Can't wait, thanks for warming me up to the whole idea. My Dad was at "your" Olympics as Calgary was his hometown and he couldn't miss it!Did you see HFX last night on TV?
Hope to meet you sometime,
Gail's friend- Kathy

GailM. said...

Wow, that was good to see that clip again. It gets me when you stop to let the kids touch the torch. How nice for the kids to see that. I'm all set for the torch parade next Wednesday here in Freddy Beach.

tdp said...

wow! what an incredible life experience!
I am so glad that someone as special as you was able to have been part of it.
How proud you must have been....

Anonymous said...

Well, true to form I am sitting here bawling Donna. What an honour it was being there to see you run and to film it as well. Thanks for posting this. Love Kelly

Anonymous said...

Hahah I love this video! It is so exciting to see it! I was trapped on Robie street as the torch went down Spring Garden Road last night. wahoo.

cpm said...

OMG! I can't stop watching it! It's amazing!!! and I cry EVERY time! For the love! What an awesome clip and souvenir to have....and how wonderful your family was there to share it with you. I'm so proud of you...Way to go Donna! Can't wait to see the outfit tomorrow!

Lee said...

Geez, I'm sitting here blubbering just like you did! Great job of sharing what the experience felt like. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Mom & I went to the torch lighting downtown and your story was more exciting than that! It was really crowded and I didn`t even see the person who was carying the torch. I would rather have seen you carry the torch. Love Caleigh