On October 9, 2016, the Indiana Bicentennial torch passed through Porter County. The ceremony at Indiana Dunes State Park was picture perfect as we celebrated all of the great things that make Porter County part of the Hoosier state and it's 200 year history. Our destination concierge, Elizabeth, rode along with the state trooper car that led the torch and our 50+ runners throughout the day. She shared her experiences in the guest blog that follows. Here's to another 200 great years, Indiana!
I didn’t realize that I would ride in a state police vehicle when I agreed to assist with the Bicentennial Torch Relay. It’s not that I would ever hesitate to help a state trooper, but when I glimpsed the crisply tailored uniform and pristine campaign hat, an image of speeding down the bypass to keep an appointment flashed through my cerebral cortex. (Some of you might enjoy the thrill of legally running a red light, but I was so focused on juggling my cell phone and maps to clarify the relay route that most of the intersections along the journey were mere blips of light in my peripheral vision). One unexpected outcome of riding in the lead car of the caravan was the peek behind the operational curtain of an event years in the making.
There was constant communication between relay organizers to affect the appearance of an effortless undertaking. Though a participant for only a few short hours, I quickly grasped the intensity of dedication and hard work that brought this celebration to our streets. I also appreciated the camaraderie among the team members, with banter honed over hundreds and hundreds of miles on Indiana highways and byways. (How many of you fully understand the significance of “slow time” and “fast time” and their impact on travel?) The four disembodied words that impelled the caravan (and eventually compelled me to swallow the lump in my throat) were “the flame is good,” indicating a successful hand-off of the torch.
It doesn't get more picture-perfect than this. The torch rides along the coast via kayak before returning to land to cross the Indiana Dunes.
Was I disappointed that I could only catch an occasional glimpse of the torchbearer in the side mirror? Not at all! It was fitting that I should look behind as I thought of the millions of feet that had trod the same path when it was only loamy clay or perhaps a brick walkway: the footprints of Native Americans, explorers, pioneer families, farmers, industrialists, and now a little girl with a giving heart, university students, the parent of a military hero sacrificed for our freedom, the daughter of a renowned citizen, a retired nurse and executive director who spearheaded excellence in home caregiving. Surely the flame reflected the spirit of those who came before us; without their courage, ideas, and unyielding conviction to create a better tomorrow, where would our communities be today?
Just as the lead car cleared the path so that the torchbearer could proceed without obstacles, I have the opportunity to forge a future that builds on the foundation of the past and hopefully enlightens those who are growing toward maturity. The tomorrow for millennials might differ in amenities from the yesterday of my own baby boomer generation, but the connection between generations (between torchbearers, if you will) remains grounded in diversity without forsaking the faith of our founding fathers, grounded in hard work and ingenuity but never at the expense of accountability. A vision for a better tomorrow could start with something as simple as a hug between friends, as mundane as a handshake between business partners, or as exhilarating as running for public office.
Most people associate a torch relay with the Olympic Games and its message of peace and goodwill. Did you know that the modern concept of a torch relay began with the Nazis prior to the opening ceremony of the Berlin games in 1936? The connection we celebrate during our own bicentennial ceremony held no meaning for a maniacal dictator convinced of his own supremacy. Hitler sought to sever connections, forging a future on a foundation of ashes and detritus left by unparalleled destructive policies. When the Olympic Games resumed in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II, the organizers of the London games introduced the torch relay as a genuine measure of every man’s hope and resiliency, reconnecting the bonds of a burgeoning global society.
If you're going to carry the torch through Central Park Plaza in Valparaiso, there's simply no better spot to pose for a picture than sitting with Orville.
As the day began, I glanced across the dunes with a touch of envy toward the magnificent Lake Michigan and the sailboat that plied her gentle waves. I experienced firsthand the connections between young and old, between hearty folks oblivious to the sharp bite of a cooling breeze and those less impervious to the cold who attempted to seek warmth in their fleece, between old friends and new friends. They all came to honor the flame. I shared an historic moment with a couple that had popped into the visitor center the previous day, hoping for details about the torch relay ceremonies. They may never know how much they touched my heart when they asked me to pose for a picture. The torch relay ends on October 15, 2016. May the flame keep going and going and going, and always be good, bolstered by heartfelt prayers to reflect a Glory that cannot remain hidden.