Carrying a torch

The flame has arrived in Vancouver. Atop a shiny metal tube, with thousands of eyes watching every move and video cameras recording every flicker, the flame that sparked to life in Greece and was carried across the ocean and the continent has arrived to do its duty.

Tonight, a famous Canadian -- identity a guarded secret -- will touch the flame to a massive cauldron along the waterfront, and the Winter Olympics will begin.

Eight years ago, the Olympic flame passed through Baltimore on the way to Salt Lake City.

Down U.S. 40 and into the Inner Harbor, hundreds of Marylanders passed the flame from hand to hand as many more watched. Some ran. Some walked. Some guided wheelchairs through the streets.

For 500 yards, I was one of them.

In the 48 hours before, I was a nervous wreck. What if I fell? What if I couldn't get my torch to light from the previous carrier's torch? What if the Olympic flame went out on my watch?

The morning of my official responsibility, I dressed in the running suit sent to me by the organizers. It was blindingly white, with blue and silver accents. I looked like a frosted doughnut with sprinkles. I felt like a million bucks.

At the Maryland Science Center, we had our questions answered and were handed numbered torches. Piled onto buses, we were dropped off at the spots where we would await our time to be part of the Olympics.

Standing on the curb near the edge of the Inner Harbor, the torch's arrival was heard before it was seen: the growl of the motorcyle escort, the muffled applause by hundreds of gloved hands, the click of cameras.

Then, it was right in front of me. I stopped breathing as two of us slightly dipped our torches and the flame danced from one to the other.

I looked over to see my fellow bearer smiling, her eyes filled with tears. So was the Baltimore City police officer nearby.

And all of the sudden, my vision turned wavy, too.

I ran with an escort, a young athlete from Anne Arundel County. After a few steps, I asked her if she'd like to carry the flame and she nodded. The last few steps, we held the torch together.

Afterward, I saw Cal Ripken, who with his family ran with the flame through the Inner Harbor.

"Amazing, yes?" I said.

"Amazing," he replied.

My torch sits at home in Silver Spring, the glass crown smudged with the soot of the Olympic flame from Greece. Just before I left for Vancouver, I hefted it once again, just as thousands of Canadians have done over the past few months.

A connection was made with people I'll never know.

Amazing, yes.

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