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First Word: Time ticks by but memories last


At 35 E. Wacker Drive in Chicago, the corner of Wacker and Wabash, a block west of our offices and just south of the river, there's a beautiful old landmark building.

The "Jeweler's Building," as it was known, is a 40-story gem built in the mid-1920s. As striking as the view of the structure' s terra cotta-clad exterior is from a distance, up close, at street level, its most prominent feature is the massive ornate clock hanging over the corner from the third-story level.

Beneath each of the clock's faces is the word "TIME," a seemingly obvious statement. I think the scythe-wielding Father Time figure atop the timepiece suggests a more philosophical message, though, an invitation for anyone so willing to consider not just the time but "TIME."

I've found myself thinking about time a lot lately.

In the years I've spent working in the journalism business, I've found time seeming to pass in increments matching the frequency of the publication I've worked on. On a daily, time passed in fairly normal fashion-if the days themselves were often frenzied. With weeklies like Business Insurance, time seems to fly by in weeklong blocks. Working on the monthly schedule of Industry Focus, whole months seem to go by much too quickly.

In general, time often seems out of sync with my experience, or at least my perception.

We visit my mother in Indiana, down the street from the high school my brothers and I attended. As I walk our dog around the campus, I wonder if it can really be well past three decades since I last walked through those doors or sweated on that football field.

And, in my mom's house, reminders of my father are everywhere. How could it be 10 years this November since he passed?

And another summer's gone by too, too fast.

We've got a group of friends we get together with every Labor Day weekend, this year being the 25th such gathering. How can that be? It's a wonderful event, but to my wife, Kathy, it always seems to carry a pang of sadness as well. For her, I think, the Labor Day get-together marks the end of another summer and, I suspect, is a reminder of the passage of yet another year.

It's probably natural, given time's relentless march that, as it passes, we look to focus on anniversaries, milestones in time offering an opportunity to mark occurrences of significance, be they personal, like birthdays or weddings, or public, like the celebration of national independence or a war's end.

Or a national tragedy.

Over the past few weeks, here in the United States, we've noted a couple anniversaries of the latter sort.

As time passes, it seems that while the anniversaries continue to come around, some lose significance as the events they mark fade in the public memory. I wonder whether that will ever be the case with Katrina and 9/11.

Clearly not for those on the Gulf Coast whose losses were so great in the face of Katrina's fury.

Certainly not for those who still carry the pain of Sept. 11, 2001, those who lost family and friends, colleagues and loved ones.

And for the rest of us?

I think about the things I recall from years and years ago as though they happened yesterday, trivial things many of them, remembered vividly still, let alone events of real consequence.

I suspect I'm not unique in my feelings about time. And I suspect for most of us the significance of the Katrina and 9/11 anniversaries will be with us for some time to come.