By Joy Simmons
The Olympic torch is out, but another flame will illuminate Utah cities for the next several days, lighting the way for the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympics.
Starting March 1 through Tuesday, March 5, cities across Utah, from Brigham City to Cedar City, will light a flame. Each flame will come to Salt Lake City, arriving on March 6, to unite into one flame to be carried through the streets of Salt Lake City Thursday by 102 flame runners.
“Just as the Olympics inspire people, these games inspire people,” said Steven Stokes, Journey of Fire coordinator.
There are three parts to the Journey of Fire: the community celebrations, the Paralympic flame celebration in Salt Lake City and the flame run.
Tonight American Fork, Brigham City, Moab and Woods Cross will all light a small flame. Saturday night four more cities will light a flame. The same thing will happen Monday and Tuesday nights.
At the end of each city celebration, the small flame will be transferred to a lantern.
On Wednesday, the 15 lanterns will arrive in Salt Lake City for the Paralympic flame celebration, where they will unite into one flame.
On Thursday, the flame runners will run the torch through Salt Lake City.
Stokes said the Paralympic Games bring 400 or 500 athletes from different countries to compete.
“We”re trying to reenact this in the flame,” Stokes said. “The flame is the athlete and their spirit coming to Salt Lake.”
Stokes said the flame runners range from the ages of 7 to 96 and represent all of Utah.
One runner will ride a bike, one is blind, one is both deaf and blind, several have autism, others have walkers and nearly 30 will be in wheelchairs.
The runners were chosen from 225 applicants because of their commitment to their families and friends, or the paralympics.
“It”s a dream come true to participate at this level,” said Tim Brewer, a flame runner from West Jordan.
“I”m aware that this event is as important as the Olympic events,” he said.
Brewer said he cannot wait to run the flame. He has always wanted to be a part of the Olympic events but said he never had the genes to be an athlete. Running the flame gives him the opportunity to be involved.
While Brewer will walk with the flame, Sam Durst from Springville will carry the torch in his wheelchair. He has cerebral palsy, attends Springville High School and serves on the student council there.
Durst said he is excited to carry the torch for the Paralympics and thinks the athletes are incredible.
However, he said he probably will not ever compete.
“I don”t have time to train,” Durst said. “I”m so busy with student council and the Red Cross.”
Durst volunteers at Shriners Hospital and speaks about his disability with youth groups.
He plans on attending an ice sledge hockey game with his parents.
“It”s going to be amazing how they do it,” he said.