Joan Larsen reflects on the experience of losing one of the world’s great visionaries
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” – Steve Jobs
On the corner of Huron and Michigan Avenue on Chicago’s Miracle Mile lies Steve Jobs’ two-story Apple store, glass-fronted, stunning, and always a drawing card for the crowds packing the sidewalks, drawn to the displays of the latest of innovative products that are to hit the market.
But the last few days have been like no other. Within hours of the visionary CEO’s death, his building had become a shrine. Lit candles in glass jars glittered against the store’s windows. Flowers began to build up against the entrance.
Perhaps I was the last to know that Steve had passed away. It was early morning when I was released from a short hospital stay less than a block away. As I approached the Apple store, I saw TV crews in place, live interviews taking place at every angle in the first hours of daylight. I sawa black carpet of a rubberized fabric being laid down. But my eyes were drawn by the growing shrine — flowers being placed so lovingly by people from all walks of life. My eyes teared.
In a flash I tripped on that carpet, falling hard on my face, overnight bag and purse determining their own directions. Face down and on the ground and hurting, I realized that I had become almost a piece of the shrine, stretched out and unable to move. All of us have had embarrassing moments in life … but this was very different. I had become a plank, wind knocked out of me, and resting among the candles and the bouquets. Cameras turned in my direction, sensing that — perhaps for the first time — a person was actually leading the beginning of a “love-in” for Steve Jobs. (Not that I wouldn’t, you must understand, but an extemporaneous gesture of this sort just would not be me, given a choice. But then, I was not given a choice!)
Flowers crowning my head and scattered around me, I made efforts to stand but couldn’t. Men in particular came over, asking how I was. Asking if they could help me. Frankly, they renewed my faith in mankind. I found how many people really care in what I had thought was a “me first” era. Rarely have I been so touched.
And so — at an unlikely time and place, completely unplanned — I had more than a few moments on that ground to think about the wondrous changes this amazing man had made to our world before the ambulance came for me. I was able to say my own goodbyes in a rather unique way … caught by the cameras, surrounded by solicitous passersby, on the least private thoroughfare in Chicago.
An afterword: Life never seems to stop giving us pause, making us think, making us realize that we should be making each day of our lives the best it can be as Jobs did. And, by the way, the doctors tell me that broken bones may only take six weeks to heal!!! How good is that?
Writer Joan Larsen covers travel and culture for wowOwow.com