I came here this week fearing what I might see when Ted Bundy was strapped into the electric chair.
But I also went as an arrogant and vain journalist, hoping that I might find, through talent and insight, great truths about life in the spectacle of a man's death. One truth I found is that death strips away all such pretensions.I have no words of my own wisdom to offer you. Nothing I witnessed in the final minutes of Bundy's life should have any lasting effect on your own. Ted Bundy lived a vile life and died a horrible death. I felt no sorrow that his execution was carried out, only pain that it became necessary.
But in a field outside the prison gates, I witnessed an exhibition even morerevolting than a man's execution. It was the sound of a crowd cheering as a hearse passed by. And it was the sight of a middle-aged, gray-haired woman dashing with video camera in hand to shoot home movies of the celebration of a death.
Tastelessness and disrespect are of course not limited to the confines of a prison field. Even as I write this, a fellow journalist shouts across the newsroom a joke about Bundy's execution.
I've heard many such jokes of late. I feel no disdain for the individuals who say these things. But I can find no words to tell you how much I hate their words. I hope the speakers are guilty only of ignorance. They did not see what I saw.
No death - even Bundy's - should be cause for celebration. No one's demise should inspire jokes.
That seems like a simple enough thought. But it's the simple things we often forget.
So I come away from Starke with a message from an old lesson I learned once again this week: All life is a precious gift.
There's nothing original in that thought. I can take no pride of ownership. But it's a truth I hope you will remember. It's one I now know I will never forget.
All this day people have asked me how I felt to have watched a man die. I did not know the answer. My emotions were a jumble, and I struggled to suppress them even as I struggled to do my job.
But at this moment, as this long day nears its end, I feel merely sadness. Sad that it became necessary to end a life. Sad that so many missed the point of Ted Bundy's death.
The sadness in Bundy's saga extends beyond his deeds and his death. It is the sadness born of a wasted life, of the misspent potential of a man who owned intelligence and charm but gave only pain and death.
Tomorrow I will try to put the sadness behind me. I have no desire to dwell on the events of today. It's time to stop talking of death. Time to again pursue the joy of life.
I hope those whom I saw cheering death this morning will try to put their hate behind them as well. It's time to break the dams of hate they have built inside themselves. Time to wash away the bitterness.
Let us leave the hate and death at this prison site. Let us take home love and life instead.