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Commentary: 'We will all remember – Graduation Day'

What a way to start out Graduation Week 2012 in Harford County.

First, a Joppatowne man is arrested and charged with killing, dismembering and eating the heart and part of the brain of another man. Next a tornado touches down in Fallston and does a more than $1 million in property damage. Then, two young brothers are playing with a loaded handgun in Pylesville, and the 8-year-old accidentally shoots the 11-year-old to death.

There's also been the Facebookgate at the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company after members posted disparaging remarks about the Sonic in Bel Air when one member claimed he couldn't get a discount. The county executive has declared he and the citizens of Harford County would welcome a gambling casino. Oh, and don't forget the sightings of an Academy Award-winning actor on the streets of Havre de Grace, as they shoot a TV series (or is it a movie) for Netflix.

Wow. Is that crazy, or what?

High school graduation is, to my thinking, one of the most important milestones each of us will achieve in our lifetimes. Maybe it's not the same as getting married or having children or getting a big promotion at work or making your first million, but let's face it, not everyone gets married or has children, some people work the same job their entire lives and never get promoted and most of us won't make a million bucks.

We don't all belong to the same religion, so there are different rites of passage there, and we don't all go to and graduate from college and, for even those of us who do, is college graduation that big a deal? I know it wasn't for me; in fact, I skipped both of them because I was already far away working both times.

But most of us do graduate from high school, and I think everyone attends their high school graduation, because it's usually pretty much mandatory. So, it's a very special event, and it's one I doubt any of us really ever forgets.

I remember some of my high school graduation 46 years ago this week. It was on the football field. For the procession, boys were in one line, girls on the other, a couple of the temporary bleachers were moved to the middle of the field. The boys came from one side, the girls from the other so two of us would meet in the middle and them climb to our seats. The girls wore white gowns, the boys wore black. There weren't any fancy school colors tassels in those days, just black and white.

It wasn't a rousing ceremony, and if we had a speaker, he or she was unremarkable. Remembering the guy who finished first in the class, I'd be surprised if he gave valedictory address because he was very shy. One thing that stood out, however, is that when you went up to get your diploma, they actually handed you a small scroll, tied with a blue ribbon, but if you unrolled it, I think it was blank. The point is, once the ceremony ended, you had to exchange your cap and gown for your diploma (and your final report card). No return, no diploma. No throwing hats, either.

OK, so maybe my graduation wasn't all that memorable, but I do remember it. In those days, the main thing hanging over our heads was the Vietnam War, mostly for those who weren't headed off for college with the promise of draft deferments until we finished. Some of my classmates joined the armed services within weeks of graduation, while others waited around to be drafted. Other than no longer being subjected to conscription, members of the Class of 2012 have similar warfighting options available to them. Well, some things never change.

But cannibals running around the streets and tornadoes blowing down buildings? At a similar time in my life, the only "cannibal" in the news was the leader of the group that recorded "Land of a Thousand Dances." As for tornadoes, that was something they worried about in Midwest. (I wouldn't see my first one until about a year later.) Facebook? Netflix? Casinos - only in Las Vegas.

You'll never be so free and unfettered by responsibility as you are the day or evening you graduate from high school. Enjoy the moment and savor your accomplishment. There's a big world ahead of you and a lot more for you to do, and you can never really go back to the good old days, but that's OK, because there should still be plenty of good days ahead. Good luck and be safe!

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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