In the meantime, I thought I'd share a little bit more about what made my Saturday night so perfect. And it's long - sorry. You can read part 1 here.
We were at the part where I fell in love with the Olympic Games.
The day finally arrived, the world had been trickling into our state for days, and the weather was cooperating perfectly. Snow on the ground, fresh powder in the mountains, but no storms in the valley to hamper travel. National Guardsmen from all over the country were here. Security was on highest alert. My mom is now retired from the FBI, and during the Olympics she was working all-night shifts. They had people working around the clock. Members of the Armed Forces manned the rooftops of buildings surrounding venues where large crowds were gathered. It was the early days of the post-9/11 world we now live in. Despite the heightened anxiety that was reinforced by intense security wherever you went, there was - at least for me - a sure sense of well-being. I knew everything was going to be alright.
Although we were living in a world of heightened security, it was also a world of support and unity. It was a time of high patriotism in America, and that patriotism resonated throughout every moment of the 2002 Olympics. I know the Olympics is about the world, but this year it was sort of about The United States of America. International Olympic Committee President Jaqcues Rogge addressed our athletes during the Opening Ceremonies. He said, "Your nation is overcoming a horrific tragedy, a tragedy that has affected the whole world. We stand united with you in the promotion of our common ideals, and hope for world peace."
I know that representing your country at the Olympic Games, for an athlete, has got to be one of the most humbling, and thrilling experiences of a lifetime. But can you even imagine what it meant for the U.S. Athletes at these particular games? I found myself thinking of this often throughout the games, during the opening ceremonies, and especially during medals ceremonies when U.S. athletes were standing on the podium. It gave me chills then, and it gives me chills now.
One of the most stunning moments happened during the Opening Ceremonies. A select group of athletes carried into the stadium the flag that had flown over the World Trade Center. One of those athletes was Derek Parra. He was also at the celebration Saturday night, and the CEO of the games related this story that Derek had shared with him. He said that as they prepared to enter the stadium, they expected a huge, thunderous roar. Instead they were met by complete and utter silence. Pure reverence from the crowd for what that flag represented. Reverence for that moment when tribute was paid to the many people who lost their lives on that dark day in September.
I wasn't able to attend the Opening Ceremonies, but I watched every second of it on TV. I still get a lump in my throat when I watch the flag being carried in and hear the beautiful, amazing instrument that is the combined voices of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as they sing our National Anthem.
Another story related about this experience by the athletes was that during the last swell of music when the choir sang the worlds, "Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" for the second time, that a gust of wind caught the flag and lifted it, as if those who were being honored were lifting that flag.
These were the experiences that touched hearts that year. I know that every Olympics is special. But having the world come together on our American soil, and stand with us as we recovered from tragedy, and watching athletes from all over the world proudly represent their countries - it was beyond special.
I did not have the financial resources to be able to attend any of the sporting events in person, but the Olympic experience was everywhere. I rode our new light-rail system (Trax) into Salt Lake many nights in a row. Some of the wonderful things I got to experience were:
Riding the Trax train into town with an entire Unit of National Guardsmen from another state. They were here in plain-clothes keeping an eye on things and protecting the public. It was an honor to spend some time talking with a few of them during the ride.
Ice skating with hubby, and our then 4-year-old Bookworm at the Budweiser Square. They brought in the Budweiser Clydesdales - and as beautiful as they look on TV, they are even more magnificent in real life.
Spending a couple of nights in the city with my best cousin Kimberlee, enjoying the atmosphere, listening to live music, and participating in all of the fun public venues that were going on during the games.
Running into a group of Russian athletes who asked us to take their picture in front of the fountain at Temple Square. Being so excited to meet them even though we couldn't communicate a word to each other!
Buying and trading Olympic Pins. Nerdy, I know - but it was the thing to do!
And of course watching (and recording for posterity) every minute of every event. I remember the butterflies in my stomach while watching our athletes compete. The exhilaration when one of them won an event, or broke a record (and many records were broken that year!). The devastation when one of them lost an event or crashed, or fell. I remember every bit of it.
I still have that collection of VHS tapes tucked away in a cupboard, and even though I haven't watched them since - I haven't been able to bring myself to part with them either.
Saturday night was spent remembering and paying tribute to all of the wonderful moments that made up the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. I had to blink back tears many times throughout the night, and I left the event hoarse from cheering and screaming.
Tomorrow I'll tell you the next reason that winning these tickets was perfect for me.
I'm linking up here: