A dozen years ago I started coming back to my native Boulder from my home and work in Washington, D.C.
My parents were aging -- my mother heartbreakingly ill with Alzheimer's; my father lonely and distressed, awkwardly adjusting to the many changes we were making to keep our mother at home. They lived in a charming University Hill house surrounded by caring and attentive neighbors, including their friends John and Patsy Ramsey.
And then, in the early weeks of 1997, I would abruptly head home.
The Ramsey's daughter, JonBenet, had been killed over Christmas. It seemed that my 76 year-old father, the one neighbor reliably answering his door, had been giving interviews, chats he thought, with a number of national and even international media, including but certainly not limited to The New York Times, People Magazine, the National Enquirer and the BBC.
He had also graciously accepted about a thousand dollars worth of film from a friendly team of Japanese reporters. And he was conducting impromptu briefings from the aisles of his beloved Safeway.
But I would have my own explaining to do. While returning home to manage my parent's vulnerability, I was also working with ABC News producers covering the story.
I remember arriving after midnight to the astonishing spectacle of 17 satellite trucks lining our street; their lights revealing the alarming image of my father dispensing his bad coffee to extremely receptive reporters, happy to hold something hot in one hand, while reaching for a mike with the other.
Though he was extremely upset by what had summoned such potential company, he was invigorated by the opportunity to help, busily resurrecting his role as head of the neighborhood welcome wagon.
My peculiar presence as both protective daughter and potential booker was not entirely lost on my father, nor lost at all on his 200 new media best friends.
Two years later, I had relocated to New York working for ABC's "Good Morning America" -- helping coordinate coverage of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.
That spring, the news room erupted with word of a massive school shooting in Colorado. I would come home only once that long Littleton winter; but what happened at Columbine, and elsewhere during a distressing season of school violence, would be the focus of two GMA-White House Town Halls that election year, both featuring a devastated but increasingly galvanized Columbine community.
I would continue my personal/professional rotations to Boulder over the next decade. It would seem to me, and to a lot of national news desks, that Colorado had become a reliable epicenter of breaking news; often serious, sometimes silly, and occasionally so salacious a TMZ teen might beg to be spared. Consistent eruptions of attention-grabbing events that today might only be rivaled by, say, Alaska ...
For example, in a loose chronological order of appearance:
The scorned ranger tearfully torching her ex-husband's letters and an additional 138,000 acres of forest, proving she would not be ignored to hundreds of home owners, trillions of trees, and would-have-been generations of wild life.
And the distraught pastor with a 30 million-plus flock, appearing in an early pilot for the later national series of convoluted confessions, stand up/stand by wives, and stowed-away soul mates. All declaring "change you can believe in." As I recall, he owned-up to just saying yes to the massage, but no to the methamphetamines.
And the bad boy behavior performed at some Colorado colleges and an academy; as well as some outrageous words and works by a professor, whose ability to persevere he might attribute to the alleged Native American blood coursing his veins.
And the tubercular run-away groom, whose flight from the CDC to Europe to Denver sparked an international manhunt, branding him the most famous TB renegade since our own Doc Holliday.
And, certainly topping the decade's Colorado political coverage, the 2008 Denver Democratic Convention, showcasing the state's long political ascension from rocky red to sky blue.
But nothing, of course, raised the national news alert level to red as rapidly as Kobe Bryant's 2003 visit to the high country for knee surgery. The alleged rape case would return hordes of media to Colorado, hardly miserable to be staking their outposts for a year in the vicinity of Vail and Aspen -- as opposed to, say, Cannon City and Pueblo.
The case would suddenly settle in September 2004, forcing reporters to prematurely pack up new hiking boots and file away trail maps amidst the aching beauty of a Rocky Mountain autumn.
Around this time I would, for a while, base my comings and goings from Aspen -- always a particular hub of interesting news. For instance, Johnny Depp's cannon blast send-off of the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson in the summer of 2005, who had killed himself that February. And in a peculiar 36 hours during the summer of 2006, the assumed suicide of Enron's Ken Lay, who really had a fatal heart attack, followed within shortly by the assumed heart attack of Colin Powell, who really had swooned, following a high altitude/attitude dinner with Bill Clinton.
My mother would pass away at home in 2001. And my father at home as well, but for a few last hours, in 2008. We would sell our house soon, in a photo finish with the fall of Lehman Brothers.
But I still linger in Colorado, traveling east and back regularly, citing estate distribution activities from a cozy neighborhood rental, and a heartbroken inherited dog for my ambivalence.
For me home is really D.C. Time in Colorado is all about wistfulness and weather. I remain purposely provincial about Boulder; this summer regularly taking east coast friends to dine on the porch at Chautauqua. My friend Ginny, happy to escape the Capitol tropics, looked from that porch one recent evening to a field of evergreens and asked "Is this heaven?" For me it is. At least for a little while longer ...
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