Andrea Langworthy's column: Modern miracles
One night last week, towards the end of his show, NBC anchor Brian Williams broke for commercials and promised an upcoming story that would blow the minds of viewers. Those weren’t his exact words but whatever he said sounded promising. I called my husband in from another room.
Williams, as he often does, had saved the best for last: a video of Joanne Milne, a 39-year-old English woman born deaf due to a rare medical condition. Thanks to cochlear implants, Milne was able to hear for the first time. Her face contorted. Her hand went to her mouth. She began to cry.
“What a wonder,” I said to my husband. “No, no, it’s more than that.” I searched for a better word to describe what we had just witnessed. “It’s wonderment,” I said. “We are living in a time of great wonderment.”
I remember a vacation my family took when I was a teenager. A road trip to California in our Oldsmobile station wagon. Over and over, my dad made the five of us kids and Mom pile out of the car so he could take a picture of us in front of the first place for “this” or the battle of “that.” In Wyoming, he pulled to the side of the road and lined us up next to a scraggly piece of tumbleweed.
That was Dad. Seven Wonders of the World? Oh, no. Every roadside marker, every “Welcome to the state of” sign was a wonder to him. I’ve got boxes of pictures to prove it.
By the time we reached Utah and Zion National Park, I had faked awe more times than I cared to. Even so, the Painted Desert and Grand Canyon were lying in wait for us. Not to mention, more wayside commemorations. At every one, Dad read aloud from the plaque and snapped a picture.
An autoimmune disease that attacked and destroyed his muscle sidelined my father but he never stopped educating his kids. Even when we were grown, with families of our own, he kept us informed with stories he clipped and copied from a slew of newspapers and magazines every day. Nearly every week, each of us received a fat envelope from him.
“Too bad Dad didn’t live long enough to experience the wonder of the Internet,” I told myself the other day. I had just used a search engine to verify the name of the woman in Brian Williams’ newscast.
My father would never have believed that someday, from my humble home in Rosemount, I would be able to watch — over and over — the clip of Milne’s reaction to what she heard; that I could find my way to the website of the British Broadcasting Company and read an interview with her.
“I’ve heard the birds, running water, even the ping (of) a light switch,” she said. “When I first did it, I had to go on, off, on, off. I tried it about 10 times because I had to hear it again and again. It’s what most people take for granted, switching on the lights. It sounded so beautiful to me,” Milne told the BBC. She went on to say it was so emotional, she couldn’t stop crying.
Just think: To us, turning on a light and turning it off again is something we do without a thought. To Milne, it’s wonderment. I made a note to myself to send a link to the site to my children. Dad would be proud.