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NOVEMBER 13, 2009   

A week ago

Pink clouds at sunset reflected in glass building wallsI was in Pittsburgh for the Mobile Art & Code conference at Carnegie Mellon University.

The sun was shining, the campus was alive with students, and I was pumped full of ideas of how powerful handheld computers (i.e., iPhone and the like) could affect our lives.

A few hours later a rosy sunset reflected off the buildings as I checked Facebook on my laptop.

Today, seven days later, I was running in the afternoon sun at Edgewater Park, thinking about how quickly things had changed thanks to Facebook.

A week ago, Saturday started with conference sessions jam-packed with ideas about Mobispray, Gold Dust, SynthPond, and a whole lot more. By lunchtime I really needed a break.

Two Adirondack chairs on CMU campusI went outside to enjoy the sun and take advantage of one of the Adirondack chairs scattered around the CMU campus. Relaxing with my laptop in front of me I read a Facebook message that ended with "sorry about the fire on 32nd street."

Fire? What fire? Where on 32nd street?

I called home and talked briefly with Joanne, but she was on the road and could only give me a quick overview: the boarding house two doors down from us had burned during the night. Two people were dead, maybe three. The fire had spread to the house next door owned by our friends Wally and Jeannie. Everyone living there got out OK, but were without homes. Didn't sound good.

My next call was to Wally, but I found him in Nebraska visiting family. He didn't know much more than I at that point. Third call found Jeannie driving to Cleveland from Yellow Springs. She filled in more details, and we talked about what might happen to their house.

In the silence after I hung up I realized that I was completely powerless to do anything but talk. The lives of my wife, my friends and my neighbors had been thrown into turmoil at 2 a.m. on Saturday. I wanted to be there to share the pain, to hold them close. But from a distance all you have are words. Not a good feeling.

It hit me that this was a small taste of what military men and women and their families must live every day when the news turns bad. I'd never considered this part of the emotional price they have to pay, and it gave me more of an appreciation of their sacrifice.

The weekend continued with a dark undertone for me. The past week has similarly been a mix of good and bad (see Nov. 8, Nov. 9, Nov. 10). Good to see Wally for several days. Bad because he's here to deal with the damage to his house, struggling with decisions about what to do next. A sunny late-afternoon run at Edgewater helped me sort through a few of these things. Felt good to be tired and sore afterwards.

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