Witnessing an event that very few got to see

There have been thousands of events that have taken what I consider the world stage. Sometimes millions witness this event, sometimes it’s only a few hundred. Some people have been to multiple events, up till a few weeks ago I had never attended such a thing.

My wife and I took the trip of a lifetime for us, it was a photo safari in Kenya. It was all high end and led by a world renowned wildlife photographer. Everything was beyond first class, I will be posting my experience later, I’m still working on my thousands of pictures and writing about the trip.

One evening at dinner our tour group of 10 was given a choice, visit a local village that was on our itinerary or attend an event at a local elephant rescue. We all chose the elephant rescue. The next morning after breakfast we loaded into the off-road vehicles and it was off to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. We were given the deluxe tour, the purpose of the sanctuary and all the behind the scenes workings. We saw the young elephants being fed their morning bottles. I got to personally meet Long’uro, a now robust 5 year old bull elephant that lost most of his trunk to hyenas after falling into a well.

The big event for this day was ahead. It was the release of 13 elephants, all between 7 and 9 years old. All had been orphaned and raised by the sanctuary. There were many dignitaries present, the presidents of 3 African nations, civic leaders of the area and international press including some from the U.S. and many European countries. We were all crammed onto 2 viewing platforms. The locals all started to chant and wave, it was there way of saying goodbye and good luck to the elephants. Soon everyone joined in.

The gates were then opened and the elephants filed out, each with a satellite tracking collar around their neck. The last 2 hesitated, they were not ready to go. A couple keepers gave them some encouragement and they were off.

I chatted for a bit with a guy in a National Geographic t-shirt. He was surprised to find that there were Americans at this event, he thought he was the only one there. Besides my wife and I, there was another couple in our tour group from Arizona.

After loading back into the off-road trucks, some of us witnessed what this meant to the people of the Samburu. A group of young ladies, all dressed in the work uniforms of the sanctuary, were huddled next to the vehicle, all hugging and crying. They all had spent the past 5 years or so working at the sanctuary, the released elephants were their babies.

A week later we got some good news. All 13 elephants had joined an existing herd of elephants. On the world stage, this was a small event from a land that rarely makes the news. But I was there and this will be something special for me to carry with me the rest of my life.

While I try to think of such a thing in my life, I’ll just say — beautiful story, and thank you for sharing it (for real).

Jeez, crying at work. I love elephants.

I was on a motorcycle ride with my father in early 2003. My helmet was a bit too big for my small head at the time (I was like 11 years old). I let me dad know and he pulled over to the side of a busy suburban street. A strip mall type deal was next to us and we parked in front of it. There was, already, a flurry of police activity in the parking lot. We saw police officers placing a man and a woman in custody, and escorting a young blonde girl into a vehicle.

Turns out, it was Elizabeth Smart. We found out later that night when local news reported that she had been found and her captors arrested.

Not earth-shattering, but in Aug. 2009 I was at a baseball game that ended with a walk-off unassisted triple play (U-4). As far as I can determine, this was only second time this had happened in the entire history of major league baseball. My son saw this and another walk-off triple play (5-4-3). This is nearly as rare as a perfect game, one of which I saw in 1964. There have been a couple dozen of them.

I somehow finagled some tickets to a very small venue for a Prince concert. It was right after one of the big music awards shows in Los Angeles, and Prince and his band came straight from the show to play a set at this small club in the San Fernando Valley.

He was at the height of his popularity, and played a killer set. The crowd was quite small, and was loaded with lots of top pop music celebrities of the day, as they had all come from the awards show to the concert. Jackson Brown and Darryl Hannah were seated at our table. I waited in line with Whoopi Goldberg in the ladies’ room. I saw Rik Ocasek and Paul Simon in the crowd. Once, when I went to stand in front of the stage, I found the volume to be too much to bear, and I stopped my ears. A tall, skinny, dark man standing next to me was also stopping his ears and we both grimaced a bit at each other. It was Mick Fleetwood.

So only a hundred or so people saw this awesome small concert, including me and a friend who took the other ticket.

A good friend of mine was also at this show. He loves to talk about it.

I was in Israel in the 90s. It was during the Rabin administration and a very optimistic time. They were just about to open a border crossing between Israel and Jordan. The official opening was in a couple of weeks which would have been after we were gone. Somehow someone clued us in to the fact that a few small tour companies had permission to take people out to Petra prior to the official opening.

We were among the very first people to be able to make that crossing. There were Jordanians on the other side to greet the Israelis. They were hugging each other and thrilled to be able to mingle together. It was a very special thing to see.

I’ve heard that the human volunteers are often met at the release by representatives from the herds that the released elephants will be joining. I like to imagine it as parallel nonprofit groups in both species, cooperating to help the lost orphans.

In my case plenty of folks got to see it but few from the Northern Hemisphere. In 1987 I was on vacation in Australia and happened into a bookstore in the town of Coonabarabran. I noticed the cover story on Time magazine was about a recent supernova event so I grabbed it (being an avid telescope junky). Turns out the supernova was only visible from the southern hemisphere and the article interviewed several experts at the Siding Spring Observatory in - Coonabarabran! I drove up to the observatory that night and had a lovely chat with the folks there (didn’t get to look through their big scope though), but did get to very easily spot the “new star” for several weeks of evenings afterwards.
It (SN1987A) is still the most significant “nearby” supernova event in recent history and the remnant continues to provide fascinating data.

A couple years ago I had a vacation planned, but the event I was going to was called off. I already had the vacation time scheduled, so I figured I should plan something else on short notice. I went to Florida. I was driving to the Kennedy Space Center when I heard on the radio that there was a launch window for the Artemis I mission that night. I got a special ticket to come back to the visitor center that night. Still about eight miles from the launch pad, but I saw the rocket take off about 1:30 in the morning. I’d been wanting to see a launch for about 50 years, and I just stumbled into it. I think it’s the most powerful rocket ever launched.

I’m sure thousands of people along the Florida coast saw it, but it was still something special to me.

I experienced the most powerful earthquake to ever strike North America.

Just a little over exactly 60 years ago

I read a book about that a few years ago. I live in earthquake country, but that’s one quake I hope I never experience.

Thank you for sharing this. Everybody – go to the Reteti site. Wonderful stories.

It’s one of those things that burns itself into your brain. Sixty years ago and the memories are still as fresh as when it happened.

I’ll bet.

My two aren’t that special – thousands isn’t “very few.” They’re episodes in the evolution of computers (this isn’t my professional field):

  1. My uncle worked for Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s. Circa 1979, when I was a child, he showed me at his office this text game (using something called a floppy disk), called “Adventure.” This was the Colossal Cave pioneering text-based game. (It had been around for three years already, but I still feel a sense that I was witnessing the future).

  2. In 1990, British geographer Staley Openshaw gave a visiting lecture in my college about neural networks and machine-based learning. Again, this had been around for a few years, but only among experts. Again, I felt like I was glimpsing the future – and, indeed, this was much of the precursor to the “AI” explosion of the 2020s.

Many years ago I leaned out of a boat off the coast of Mexico and put my hand on a Grey Whale. That memory is still pretty fresh, she was so beautiful.

Reminded me of a possible entry… Driving down the highway I saw a motorcycle run into the back of a parked truck immediately outside my driver’s side window. Not sure how often that sorta thing happens, but no one else was as close to this one when it did.

I did some training to be an animal guide at a wildlife sanctuary - so I could walk international tourists around the park and be able to talk knowledgeably about the local fauna (ie - more than ‘that one’s got a pouch’.

They have some platypuses, including a couple of ‘rescues’ that have been domesticated during their rehabilitation, and so cannot be released back into the wild. There is a ‘keeper talk’ with these animals where the keepers stand in a tank with the platypuses and chat to the visitors.

I got to put on waders (chest-high) and stand in a tank with two little platypuses swimming around me.