I was there when…

I have a large, sepia-toned photo that’s framed and hanging on my wall. It’s called, “Racing at the Clarendon,” and it was taken in 1922. It shows auto racing on the sandy beaches of Florida — Daytona Beach, to be exact. And 90 years later, we’re still racing at Daytona.

But tonight’s post isn’t about the racing — it’s about the people in the photo; people who are so caught up in that moment. People who are standing on things they probably shouldn’t be standing on to get a better view, and people who will therefore be scolded by someone “in charge.” People hanging out windows of hotel rooms to see the action, people visibly enamored with the spectacle and thinking, most likely, that if heaven on earth exists, this must be it.

You can tell the green flag has just dropped, and already giant, billowing sandy clouds are erupting from the rear of each car. Fortunately, a breeze carries the dust away from the drivers so they have a clear, unobscured view of their course; the palm trees in the background and the American flag high atop the hotel also speak of the breezy day. Little boys are clinging to their fathers’ legs with excitement; three women are in the background sitting on top of a parked car. With the exception of the auto racing taking place, these women could very well be sitting on a park bench or enjoying tea together. But they’re not — and that’s pretty awesome.

The race cars — four of which are clearly visible in the photo — are mere feet up from the water along the beach, and the crowds of people there to watch are just 15-20 feet beyond the cars. The men are mostly wearing hats and ties; women are in bonnet-like hats and dresses. I don’t know that auto racing since then has seen a more well-dressed group of spectators.

There’s likely somewhere between 200 and 300 people in the photo, and I highly doubt back then that they had any clue they would end up in a photograph and be hanging on my wall 90 years later. I’m sure most, except for perhaps the smallest of children in the picture, passed away years ago. But the way their spirit lives on in this photo and the excitement in life that they clearly loved to witness is amazing.

Nearly a century later, we’re still the same. Some things never change.

We’re drawn to festivals, sporting events and anyplace that promises even a remotely good time. We gather in throngs to share the same moment in time and so we can all say, “I was there when.”

We gather with friends, family, with strangers and sometimes we go alone just to witness the magic of someone’s dreams coming to life, and to see someone’s passion played out on a field, in a car, or in whatever setting they love to be in.

It’s interesting to think how many photos each of us has ended up in. With the capabilities our technology has today, will we be at a baseball game where an historic photo is snapped, only to be looked at under a magnifying glass decades from now and discussed by journalists or historians?

Who will wonder about us?

Who will wonder about the lives we led?

I remember working at Disneyland for a few summers during high school. On July 17, 1995, I gathered with many other employees on Main Street for a photo in honor of the park’s 40th anniversary, and Main Street was so packed you couldn’t even walk. I was somewhere right in the middle of the pack, and I’m sure you can’t see me.

Or can you?

I’ve often wondered if anyone has such a great-quality photo that they’re able to somehow make out the faces of the employees who wanted to be part of the day. Apparently that photo was put into a time capsule (which Disneyland appropriately refers to as a “time castle”) that’s supposed to be opened 40 years from that date in 1995. It’s kept safe under a stone that explains the capsule “is dedicated to the children of the 21st century, who may unlock its contents on the 80th Anniversary of Disneyland: July 17, 2035.”

2035, my friends. Who would’ve thought?

Probably Walt.

The old 1922 racing photo on my wall has a very time capsule-esque quality about it, and it makes me want to make a current-day equivalent of it for my own life. How, I’m not sure, but how amazing it would be to have someone 100 years from now find whatever I left behind and feel the same things I’m writing about tonight? Very.

Tonight I am thankful for those little moments in life when I can say, “I was there when,” and am excited for those moments in others’ lives. We never know whose photos we’ll appear in, who will appear in ours, and who will see them 25, 50, even 100 years from now. But here’s to making those moments count, and to following — and finding — our passions every single day.

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