Forrest alum brings Olympics to life

Friday, August 15, 2008

Second graders at Chapel Hill Elementary School received a lesson last week about the history of the Olympic torch, but more importantly one about the true meaning of friendship.

With the start of the 2008 Beijing Games set to open, Mrs. Betsy Bishop coordinated a special presentation on Thursday, Aug. 7 for all second grade classes. As a huge sports fan, she wanted to impress upon the students the importance of the Olympic Games and how athletes from across the globe come together every four years with such pride and enthusiasm to compete for their home countries.

Mrs. Bishop called upon her Forrest High School Class of 1978 fellow graduate, Steve Turner to visit the school and speak about his experience as an Olympic Torch Bearer during the 2002 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games.

"Thirty years ago, when I was a little girl, there was only one class," explained Mrs. Bishop to her students before Turner arrived, "36 of us went to school together since the first grade. We were not only classmates, we were best friends, and we loved each other."

Mrs. Bishop explained that Turner, a Forrest football standout, went on to play at TSU, and then the Houston Oilers. He is now an SRO with the Metro Schools and has a son playing for the University of Southern California; however he stays in touch with his friends in Chapel Hill. He was chosen to carry the Olympic torch when it came through Nashville and Mrs. Bishop said she thought it would "be neat" for her students to see the torch, get to hold it and learn about its history.

Turner arrived in his Metro Nashville Police Department uniform and greeted Mrs. Bishop with a big hug and her class with high fives. After settling into the cafeteria he told the group that after his football career he joined the police department because, "I wanted to continue to help people."

"We're a very close group," he said of the several Chapel Hill teachers he graduated with who stopped by to listen to his presentation. He impressed them by even remembering Mrs. Bishop's birthdate!

His many years of involvement with the Special Olympics led to his being nominated to carry the torch through Nashville for 1.5 miles at night.

"I was able to take it and light a big torch downtown in Riverfront on stage in front of a big crowd," he told the students.

He explained to the students that the Olympic flame has never gone out, despite efforts by terrorists and others who have tried to disrupt the Games and that the flame has "gone through so many people's hands across the world."

Turner also displayed the jogging suit he was given and before allowing each student and teacher to hold the torch he reiterated, "This is something special I've done in my life. You may never get to see it again and I wanted to share it with you guys because this is home, Chapel Hill, Tennessee!"