After a few moments staring at each others name tags and in each others face, we realized that we went to the same high school in Denver and after a year has passed, I thought I’d call him up and say, “I’d like to write a little story about how our lives have crossed paths again after so many years. Could I write this piece? We’re different people who went off on different paths and after 40 years, converging at Red Cross and reconnecting.”
I had no idea if Chris would subject himself to my grueling interviewing process, but I plied him with dinner and he agreed, so last week Chris met my wife and I for dinner at the Stone House in Montrose.
Of course, after 10 mins my wife was bored listening to us recounting our childhood classroom antics and excused herself, but we had prepared for that. Listening to an interview in real time is like listening to your child practice piano. All those extra notes have to be edited out. She’ll be able to “hear” everything salient if she just shows up at the final recital. And besides, she got an opportunity to go to Target for an urban experience that doesn’t exist in our small town of Telluride.
As Chris opened up, I was more and more intrigued. In high school, he got his Amateur Radio Operators license, called “ham” operator and after high school, he went to college in Denver and studied Electrical Engineering. He was fascinated with electronics and especially, hands-on building and developing of electrical systems. Because of his hands-on love of electronic communications, he decided to finish his schooling at the former Emily Griffith Opportunity School in Denver. (Disclosure: I went to EMOS during my high school years on Thurs evenings and the smartest kids I ever met were there doing unbelievable things in electronics and computer science. I went because I was amazed that kids could figure this stuff out, not because I had any propensity, myself.)
His first job was with a two way radio company in Grand Junction and later with Tri-state Electric company, the 44 REA owned, electrical generation and transmission company for rural communities operating in 4 states around Montrose. In 2000, Chris and 6 of his local “ham” friends wanted to help out with the Red Cross, so they took some basic Disaster Response training and in 2002, he became a disaster team captain (DAT captain) where he current responds to about 20 events/year.
Ham radio operators provide a critical back-up for land line and cellular communications, esp during power failures. Ham radios are portable and battery driven, so they can provide important shelter communications during disasters when electricity is down. Chris’ ham license is an important part of shelter operations in the worst situations.
Chris and his group of hams also provide communications for the local Imogene Pass run between Ouray and Telluride, and for the Hard Rock 100, the 24 hour run linking Telluride, Lake City and Silverton that has a 32,000 foot elevation gain over those 100 miles.
A runner himself, Chris runs 30 miles per week and during the winter, cross-country skis for hours on end on the Grand Mesa, where there are over 55 kilometers of beautifully groomed tracks, also thanks to Chris’ effort in grooming them most weekends during the winter.
It was great to see Chris again after all these years. And although we don’t share much time together, it is clear that his vocation in electronic communication has reconnected us to something that we both share, volunteering for the Red Cross.