April 19, 1995. Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombed.
May 3, 1999. Oklahoma City's deadly tornado, the biggest tornado ever recorded.
September 11, 2001. Foreign terrorists attack the United States.
Many people remember these days and the pain they bear.
September 21, 2004 -- today -- may join the list of days we want to expunge.
The probability is great that the militant group led by al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group will behead American Jack Hensley later today. The video of the beheading of Eugene Armstrong is being shown on the internet. It is nothing I am interested in seeing; I can barely stand to read about it.
These aren't just historic dates and events on my calendar. I can't simply sit back, shake my head and say "What a shame. Those poor people." In 20 years, I won't be able to play the game "Where Were You When...?"
In all of these horrendous moments, I am a captive in another game: "Two Degrees to Terror."
It's a nightmarish version of the game "Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon."
Perhaps you've played the game -- you know someone who knows someone who...
Each of these days is a punch in the stomach to me. They wound me in a personal way.
No, I haven't been a direct victim of the bombing, the tornado, the plane attacks or the beheading of an American in Iraq. People I know personally have been.
In the "Two Degrees" game, I've recently written about co-workers who were wounded in the bombing or whose psyche was wounded by covering the event.
Some of our co-workers lost homes, cars and other possessions in the May 3, 1999, tornado. The rest of us rallied around them as well as we could trying to set their lives right again.
Another co-worker gave his personal account of being in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11. I've given my account of waiting for him to return to work.
Now comes midnight, Sept. 21, 2004. I wait and worry about Jack Handley and his family.
So now, the Second Degree in this latest round of the game.
Jack and I went to high school together. I knew the name when I first heard about the captives, but I couldn't quite place why it sounded familiar.
Within 10 minutes I got an e-mail from a friend I've known since high school. Jack had been his friend since grade school.
I pulled out my yearbooks and recognized Jack's pictures, vaguely. We were in a large class so I wasn't close to him, but I did know the face. We never had a class together. I may have seen him at class reunions without knowing it. He and his wife and children have only recently left our hometown to move to Georgia.
Today I received an e-mail and phone calls from a bureau reporter who was working on background in the event of the most horrible outcome.
As it happens, my longtime friend who had been friends with Jack is in town and we'll have dinner tonight. My friend is now a minister who is in town for a church meeting. I'll put him in touch with the reporter. Everyone deserves to be remembered for the greatest moments of their lives. Their stories should be told and remembered.
This is what journalists and eulogists have in common. They are the story tellers that connect the past with the future.
I just hate being involved in the process of connecting the story tellers. And I could do without any more Two-Degree stories.
The game makes us realize that at any moment, any event could include any one of us.
I pray and pray for the miracle that could spare Jack's life and the life of Briton Kenneth Bigley.
I pray more for God's goodness to heal a world that is in such pain that it's driven to wars and terrorist acts.