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Darrell Huckaby - Slow news days not so bad in retrospect

I read the paper every morning, or try to. Sometimes, honesty compels me to admit, I don't have time to do more than glance at the headlines in our local paper - that would be the one you are holding in your hand right now - and sometimes even those don't grab my attention. Let's face it. We have a lot of slow news days around here.

Tuesday morning, however, the entire front page captivated me.

The first thing I noticed, like most of you probably, was the article and accompanying photographs of Sunday morning's storm damage in our area. I haven't heard anyone call the ill wind which blew through Rockdale and Newton counties, just before dawn a tornado, officially, but if it wasn't one, I don't ever want to see what one looks like.

I knew it had come up a bad cloud, of course, and was awakened a couple of times during the night by heavy rain and wind and thunder, but I didn't realize that we had been hit as hard as we had until I got to church and some normally prompt members of my Sunday school class showed up tardy, using the debris that had fallen across Georgia 212 as their excuse.

After services had concluded, my lovely wife Lisa and I decided to drive down and take a look for ourselves, and we were astounded and saddened by the amount of destruction we saw - trees sticking through roofs and cars crushed in their driveways. Luckily, the damage done by the Sunday morning storms was primarily to property, which can be repaired or replaced.

Once I turned the paper over and read below the fold, the news was even worse.

There was a picture of a little girl - a beautiful child with wind-blown blond hair; a child who could have belonged to me, or you, or any of us.

I learned that her name was Jordyn Grey Thompson. She was 8 years old and a student at J.H. House Elementary School. Jordyn was buried Monday afternoon. She lost her life Friday when she lost control of the ATV she was driving, and it turned over on her.

No 8-year old should ever be driving an ATV of any kind for any reason. But they do.

I can't imagine what Jordyn's friends and family are going through right now, and I am sure they will carry the scars of this tragedy in their hearts forever. I guess all we can do is pray that God will provide comfort for them and hope that her death will cause others to think of the possible consequences before they let children operate vehicles that aren't intended to be operated by children.

Next to the picture of Jordyn Grey Thompson was an article about a close friend of mine - Runie Walston.

We lost Runie on Friday, too. He was 86 and a veteran of two wars. I honestly can't remember when our paths first crossed, but it was at least 10 years ago. Runie, you see, was not only a veteran of World War II, he was there when it all started. That's right - at Pearl Harbor. Runie was a Pearl Harbor survivor - the last one that we know of in our county.

I talked to Runie on many occasions about that fateful day in 1941. I was struck by the fact that he was almost apologetic when he explained that he "wasn't actually in the harbor" when the attack occurred. But those people at Schofield Barracks and Hickam Field and all the other places on Oahu that the Japanese bombed that day were just as dead as the ones on the Arizona and other vessels.

Runie also talked to me about his service in the Solomon Islands and other godforsaken places that he and his generation were asked to liberate on behalf of free people everywhere. He told me of close friends that he watched die and of other close friends that helped him survive - physically and emotionally - the ordeal of war.

Although learning about his war experiences originally connected me to Runie, his life as a soldier is not what I will remember most about him. I will most remember that he was a gentle man - and that is not a typo. Though he was a warrior when his country needed him to be, Runie Walston was always one of the most gentle men I have ever encountered, and I always looked forward to his e-mails and phone calls.

Over the years I learned that Runie loved his country and his family and his church, and on more than one occasion I had the honor of having dinner with him and his wife Eloise and members of their Sunday school class from Martha Brown United Methodist Church.

I will miss Runie mightily.

But we were talking about Tuesday's paper. After seeing Tuesday's front page, I don't know about y'all, but I am ready for another slow news day.