Nine people. Three days. Six Flags. Braves game. Atlanta, 1999.
The following is the kind of story which brings tough, hardened men to their knees, makes women weep like babies, and causes children to grow up faster than they were ever supposed to, shredding the naive view of the world they once had. This, as Don Henley might say, was the end of the innocence.
(From hereon, I will simply use "Atlanta" to refer to this trip.) Of the eight persons besides myself in Atlanta, I had known or been friends with four of them for varying lengths of time. I had never met the other four.
On the surface, it was just any other road trip. I figured I would have a good time, tolerate a few new people who I would likely never see again, then go back to my life. Little did I know what was to come, and that Atlanta would always be tied to the things that happened during that fateful year.
Looking back, I would say that the changes actually began a couple of months prior to the Atlanta trip, at my birthday party in February. There I met someone who I became friends with, and she and I remain friends until this day. That was the beginning. The next few months would see a nearly complete rearrangement of my core group of friends. That is a big occurrence in one's life. For whatever reasons, after Atlanta, things changed. Prior to Atlanta, I was engaged. Within two months after Atlanta, I was no longer engaged. All nine of the persons who went to Atlanta were single at the time. Today, five of the nine are married. Two of the people in Atlanta began dating as a result of the trip, and eventually married each other.
That is what makes Atlanta so significant and such an uncommon experience. It seemed to have a profound effect not only on me, but on all of us. I daresay most of the nine persons there could point to that trip as a turning point, or at least as an important event in their life. So what happened, you might ask? Well, we all agreed to never discuss in detail the events that occurred between the dates of April 31 and May 2, 1999. Suffice it to say that sometimes things happen that change who you are and how you view the world forever. In the years since, I have thought many times about Atlanta '99. Do I ever wish I could go back? Well, sometimes I ponder what things would be like if I had never gone. But that is simply a waste of time, because I did go. It did happen. And things have never been the same.
The dictionary defines the word "nexus" as "a means of connection, a link or tie, a connected series or group." At the time, there was seemingly nothing all that significant about that trip. But over the past five years, Atlanta has become symbolic of the drastic changes that took place in the months prior to and following that trip. There were old friends that I do not see as much anymore. There were new friends with whom I would eventually spend more time. In a way, it was the past and the future, all together in one place, for one time only. Atlanta, 1999. The nexus of my life.
"Lay your head back on the ground. Let your hair fall all around you. Offer up your best defense, cos this is the end of the innocence..."