Alton, Illinois

“Life,” someone much smarter than me once wrote, “is a series of random events determined by fate and irony.”

Our lives take many twists and turns over the years and a different twist or turn could easily change the outcome of what happened later on.

What if…my father had not died in an industrial accident when I was very young? I probably would have grown up in Florida. Floyd County would have been a place to visit my grandparents instead of a new home at age 5.

What if…my widowed mother had not remarried when I was 8? We would not have relocated from Floyd to Farmville for five years. I would ot have met the photographer who taught me the basics of shooting images and stirred my interest in photography. I would not have sold my first picture to The Farmville Herald.

What if…upon returning to Floyd County, I had not taken my collection of stores and photos to Pete Hallman, then owner of The Floyd Press. What if he had not offered me a job? His recommentation led to my first fulltime newspaper job at The Roanoke Times.

What if…atter graduation from high school I had opted to attend the University of Virginia full time in Charlottesville rather than study at what was then Virginia’s Roanoke campus while working fulltime at The Roanoke Times? I would not have built a resume of clips that led to job offers from other papers.

What if…I had not taken the offer from The Alton Telegraph in Alton, Illinois? I would not have spent 11 plus years in that Mississippi River town and met Amy. Our paths would not have crossed if I had taken one of other offers papers in Kentucky or Tennessee.

What if…Amy and I not decided to leave Alton in 1981 and move to Washington so I could take a leave for newspapers to work in government and politics? I would not have met several people who provided new career opportunities.

What if…after that venture into the dark side of politics, I had not decided to go on the wagon, pick up my cameras again, and resume a career in journalism?

What if…I had accepted the assignment to cover the war in Iraq in 2003? The photographer who went in my place died. A friend who went over and urged me to go with him became the first journalism casaulty of the war.

What if…we had not decided to leave Washington in 2004 and move to Floyd County? We considered other places.

Where would we be now?

Call it fate or irony. Just one turn in another direction would have changed everything that followed.

I’m glad I made the right choices.