By Lindsay Eckert
[friday] editor/ I faced my fear in the City of Firsts
My Uncle Al’s laugh could chase the sounds of fear away. Tuesday will mark my family’s third winter without him. These words are for him.
It was a March morning, when the weather is so unpredictable you could see all four seasons in one day. A 3-year-old me was eating my Little Mermaid birthday cake and basking in the beauty of spending an entire day at Chuck E. Cheese with friends and family. The morning started off quietly with the sounds of spring whispering through the air, but it quickly turned into a fiery storm before the rain poured. Moments after I moved from the couch, the most unpredictable storm ensued as swords of glass erupted through the window behind me and the sounds of screeching brakes screamed through the atmosphere.
The moments of that morning were painted into my memory in slow motion, as family members sprinted to the driveway to help the man who had lost control of his motorcycle speeding around the corner. As the motorcyclist’s heartbeat quieted to a silence, my dad gripped the 20-year-old in his arms. He reassured the man he’d be OK. My father held on for hope the ambulance would help him before it was too late.
What seemed like hours later, the ambulance had taken the driver, but his clock of life had already made its final tick, far too early in his young life.
Twenty three years later, I accepted a position as Life and Style editor for Kokomo Tribune and I was approached to participate in a motorcycle ride benefit for Bridges Outreach during my first two weeks here. As someone whose palms still perspire at the sound of a revving motorcycle engine, my mind instantly replied with a, “No.” - but to my surprise - an excited, “Sure!” flew off my tongue. Before I had the chance to correct myself, the benefit ride’s organizer, Doug Newman, said he’d get me set up with someone and even find me a pink helmet - it’s hard to go back on your word when someone wants to keep you safe and stylish.
I spent the weeks leading up to the Bridges Outreach motorcycle ride, wishing I had said no. But, if I was ever going to face my fear a police-escorted motorcycle ride on the back of a trike for a do-gooding organization was a much easier face of fear to meet.
So, on a fall morning, I shook hands with Jack McKinney - who was driving the motorcycle - and looked fear in the face while wearing an intimidating hot pink helmet, giving fear a scare for itself, I’m sure. I spent the first minutes of the ride, clinching my jaw and wishing I had applied extra deodorant or just brought the bottle with me as a nervous sweat set in. But then, Mr. McKinney cranked up the country music as we weaved through roads lined with autumn oaks. The motorcycle engines’ hums of horror quickly dissolved. Then, enjoyment and ease picked up where fear once was.
An hour later, we arrived at the destination with the other riders and my first instinct wasn’t to jump off the motorcycle and kiss the ground - as I had expected - it was to hug Mr. McKinney and thank him for opening my eyes to an experience I would’ve rather refused just a few hours earlier that day.
Kokomo may not be a stranger to firsts; the city didn’t snag the title City of Firsts for being hesitant to try something new or overcome a fear, but it was one of my first experiences in The City of Firsts where I knew I would find a world of hearts to write about and that gut instinct has been right.
To the man who smiled at the face of fear, this column is for you.