It was a big year for me, 1996.
I started dating the girl I would eventually marry. College acceptance letters arrived. I rented my first tux.
And I spent a week at the Olympics. A glorious, unforgettable week in which my buddy Matt and I enjoyed everything the summer Games had to offer — and still managed to see a few of the events.
In what can only be described as a temporary loss of her marbles, my mom let her 17-year-old son and his 16-year-old friend go to Atlanta — without a chaperone. It’s worth noting that my aunt and uncle lived 20 minutes outside of the city — we actually crashed in their basement — so it wasn’t like we were totally on our own.
But it sure felt like we were.
We watched the U.S. win the bronze medal in baseball. Our jaws dropped when Michael Johnson ran the 400 in his gold Nikes. But my most vivid memory doesn’t have anything to do with sports. What I remember most is the Ray Charles concert in Centennial Olympic Park. When the park reopened after the bombing, Ray was the first performer on the main stage, and his voice helped ease the fears of so many people.
The Olympics opened my eyes — to a world outside the comfy bubble in which I’d been living, to the good, the bad and the horrifyingly ugly. Terrorism became more than a word in my history book. I saw a city rally and countries come together. I feasted on local cuisine and world-class competition. I’ll always remember that week, and I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to experience such a life-changing event.
This week’s 10 from Ben focuses on the London Games, starting with Olympic darling Gabby Douglas: