Just like Goodell, I am too stupid to get out of jury duty, and I'm writing this while sitting in a jury pool. The interminable waiting is frustrating. I've done this before. While coming up with an excuse for avoiding jury duty is tempting, I figure I should do it because this system is the worst imaginable except for all the alternatives. Never fear, peers, you'll get a fair hearing from me.
Saturday was a huge day for live sports in Seattle.
I had the good fortune of driving a large group to the Washington-Stanford game. We arrived behind schedule because an accident just ahead of us brought freeway traffic to a stop. A fire truck slowly passed us on the shoulder. We inched along for 20-30 minutes, noticing lots of cars plastered with Husky and Sounder colors. Behind us a nine mile backup developed, so we were among the lucky fans in the front. We bided our time by checking Google Maps, and made light of the situation by joking, "Hey, I'm sorry if you're hurt or dead up there, but we've got a football game to get to!" The jokes ended when we maneuvered around the fire truck and saw an overturned motorcycle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw what appeared to be boots, and one of my passengers said there was a body covered by a sheet. On the opposite shoulder a semi truck was parked.
Traffic then moved very fast, as it typically does after drivers get past a roadblock. We made up some time and arrived just as the National Anthem was finishing. It was a beautiful late September day, perfect for football. When the bad guys score, you can still look out over Lake Washington, where many people arrive to games by boat. Seriously, Husky Stadium is in an amazing setting. The mobile signals were lousy or non-existent under the roof, so I had to entertain myself by actually observing things that weren't on my screen.
At halftime I received a brief text from my wife, "Please call. EMERGENCY." As I looked for a quiet place to make a call, I tried not to think of what it could be. The security staff escorted me to an elevator lobby that was a little bit quieter than the concourses. With the noise and the limited signal, all I could hear was my good friend's name and "motorcycle," "truck," and "dead."
I say he was my good friend, and the truth is he had many. So many that his memorial service may have to be in a public facility because over 1,000 people are expected. He did a dangerous job, all over the state and around the world. He was beloved by the community at his children's school, where he ceaselessly volunteered his time, and entertained kids with really cool show and tell. My family was fortunate to spend a lot of time with his as we watched our kids grow up together. He had a biting wit and a great sense of humor, and he could make you smile just by raising an eye brow. The night before the crash he used that wit and eyebrow at my expense, leaving me red-faced and the rest of us on the floor laughing.
He was a firefighter, and the truck that rolled past us on the shoulder was filled with his compatriots. His brothers from all over went into action, and arrived at his house to support his family. By the time I arrived the place was already full of food and friends. Many of us came to be with his wife and children, and found that we needed each other just as much. The firefighters have demonstrated they will do whatever it takes to serve their community and honor the fallen.
I searched online for news about the crash. The original stories were about the horrible backup on the way to the games. Throughout the day they were subsequently edited to reflect first the death and finally his name. The top comment was from a local firefighter, whose avatar was a badge from my friend's department, with a black mourning stripe across it. I can't get this image out of my head. Over the next few days we will hear the bagpipes blowing in his memory and see many more badges of mourning, and we will be reminded not only of our friend but also of the thousands of people who protect us every day.
These are the shields that need protecting.