FAREWELL TO A MAN OF ARMS

IMG_7246     Traffic along the I-5 moved slowly to and from downtown San Diego as the late summer sun held high in the cornflower blue sky.  A curl of cars exited at Mission Bay Park, training ground for many of the area’s fitness enthusiasts and serious competitors alike. In 2008 and again in 2011 the park’s lush green lawns hosted the USATF National Cross Country Championships.  But thoughts of speed and championship performances were far from the minds and hearts of the hundreds of people who came to the park last night (Aug. 17, 2011).  Instead, as deepening summer shadows cut through the velvety green, San Diego’s running and triathlon communities gathered to bid farewell to one of their own.

35-year-old Petty Officer 1st class Jon Tumilson had run along Mission Bay Park hundreds of times in the years he was stationed in San Diego as a Navy Seal.  And though he transferred to Virginia Beach in April 2009 to join fabled SEAL Team 6, the native of Rockford, Iowa kept his connections to America’s Finest City strong and vibrant.

JT on the Run

JT on the Run

“JT”, as he was known, lost his life along with 37 others this August 6th (2011) in Afghanistan’s Wardak province when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down as it flew into harm’s way to assist a group of pinned down Army Rangers.  The news stunned communities across the country who had come to care deeply for JT and his comrades.  Here in San Diego Mission Bay Park is where those he met and bonded with felt most at home to share their loss and say their goodbyes. Continue reading

REMEMBERING CHELSEA

CHELSEA IN STRIDE

CHELSEA KING IN STRIDE

She was a runner, and like so many of her kindred spirits Chelsea King found freedom, joy, and life-affirming wisdom in the gritty hold of her sport. The wisdom didn’t come easy, it had to be mined most days of the week.  Which is what 17 year-old Chelsea was doing when she was attacked and killed one benign afternoon near her home in Rancho Bernardo Community Park February 25th 2010.

The news, first of her disappearance, and later of the discovery of her body in a shallow grave on March 2nd spread virally, for this was not just another Missing White Woman, that modern-day media syndrome which separates the haves from the care-nots.

“If this was someone in National City or Oceanside, there wouldn’t have been the same reaction,” was one cynical reaction I heard.

Notwithstanding, Chelsea King’s innocence seemed to radiate from the picture of her competing in her Poway High School cross country team uniform. Never a threat, runners often delude themselves into thinking that neither are they a target. Yet fully half the running population is just that if they put themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Continue reading