Recently I have altered my manner of following the news of the day on TV. Rather than listening to hours of talking heads talking, I periodically tune in to one of the cable news outlets for a brief look at potentially-important headlines. A weekend ago, my scaled-back approach to current events unexpectedly yielded several images still playing in my mind and affecting my heart.
On Sunday, I checked in on the final round of the Masters Tournament. I am in no way a golf enthusiast, but the pageant of dogwood and magnolias at Augusta and the winner’s green jacket usually draws me in for at least a few holes. In addition, a headline had alerted me that Tiger Woods was atop the leaderboard. There has just always been something about his red shirt on Sunday and his confident stride to the 18th green, so traditional for so many years.
On this Sunday in Augusta, Tiger’s eleven-year struggle following a self-inflicted fall from the heights of record-making success seemed to fade into the background in his moment of victory. I teared up when he thrust his arms into the air, allowing a release that has been years in the making. My tears continued in earnest when this father used those same arms to scoop up and enfold his jubilant son in a bear hug of epic proportion.
More than a week later, I am still pondering that father-son embrace. If Tiger had never faltered, he might very well have counseled his boy to simply work hard to accomplish success in life. But now, Tiger can more realistically guide his son through the peaks and valleys of a lifetime, letting him know from personal experience there is a way back. Such a heartwarming image…
Scarcely 24 hours later, another athletic image tugged at my heartstrings. Three hours and 38 minutes after he began, a Marine vet from northeastern Ohio crawled across the finish line of this year’s Boston Marathon. It has been a tough transition back to civilian life for Micah Herndon, survivor of three IED attacks during his deployment in Afghanistan. Particularly difficult have been the PTSD and survivor guilt precipitated by the deaths of three buddies – fellow Marines Matthew Ballard, Mark Juarez, and journalist Rupert Hamer – during one of those explosions in 2010.
Running has become therapy for Herndon as well as a tribute to his fallen comrades. The names of his friends are tattooed on his hand and etched on plates attached to his running shoes. Whenever life and physical activity overwhelm, he chants their names aloud.
When his legs gave out in Boston some four miles from the finish line of just his third marathon, Herndon remained determined to gut it out. With his Marine training kicking in, he “adapted and overcame”: repeating “Ballard, Juarez, Hamer,” he crawled on hands and knees, at one point employing a “low crawl” on his stomach to finish – and finish, he did. And although his Boston time was not fast enough to qualify him for the New York City Marathon, his courage and grit won him a special invitation for the NYC race later this year.
It touches me that in the final analysis Micah Herndon is a simple, humble man, whose most outstanding attribute is his devotion to others. Yes, his image is right there in my heart.
Shortly thereafter, my television screen came alive with the unfathomable images of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris engulfed in flames. My heart sank as the spire fell, and subsequent news footage showed rubble of the former ceiling covering the floor of the interior.
In later years of our German exchange program, we were able to add to our itinerary a weekend trip to Paris. One of my fellow former travelers reached into her album for a photo of the iconic French landmark to post, eliciting dozens of Facebook reactions and comments not long after the news broke.
Although the interior of the church is awe-inspiring with its huge organ – the largest in France – and important religious relics that were miraculously recovered, my recollections are of the exterior of the imposing edifice.
Positioned there on the Île de la Cité in the Seine River, I have always been fascinated by the Gothic architecture of Notre Dame: the flying buttresses, the bell towers, the rose windows – and, yes, the gargoyles. The structure has suffered damage from revolutions, wind, and just plain wear and tear in its 850 years of existence – that is part of its history. It was, nevertheless, shocking to see flames of destruction before our very eyes.
I must admit, however, I have always been something of a typical tourist, adding the Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, Italy’s St. Peter’s Basilica and the statue of David, and the former Berlin Wall to the list of world-renowned sights I have been privileged to see in person.
Thus, I was surprised and somewhat chastened to observe worshippers outside the cathedral – some kneeling – singing in unison as the flames burned. At that moment, it dawned on me that the Notre Dame is also a living church, the center of religion for many Parisians. This image of faith joined the sad, fiery ones as moments to be stored away in my memory.
Three distant places, three disparate events, three new images becoming part of my heart…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.