From the Editor

Rest Assured, It Really Did Happen One Night

By Lori Hutzler Eckert, Editor

As it turns out, staying up all night is just not as easy as it used to be.

Throughout my life, there have been times when skipping a night’s sleep was just a given – a childhood slumber party, preparing for college exams, celebrating the completion of those very same exams, and, on a few occasions, working all night in the process of building a new career.

But those days have passed, and as important rites of passage as they were, I can’t say I miss them.

So when the Emerald Coast Magazine team came together to plan our cover feature, “It Happened One Night,” my grown-up appreciation for a full eight hours of blissfully uninterrupted sleep was not actually top of mind.

I was purely focused on the results of this enchanting idea, conceived by our creative director, Larry Davidson. The possibilities of capturing life after the sun goes down through journalistic-style photos in one night had me hooked. When the mention of actually being upright and functioning all night came into play, I shrugged it off … After all, hadn’t I been a warrior of the night when my university won the NIT Championship? (Never mind the fact that I didn’t know staying up that night had anything to do with a basketball tournament.)

So with editorial assistant Erica Bailey’s counsel and assistance, we began to brainstorm on ideas about what happens when the sun sets. It was at this point that a tiny bit of concern began nagging at me – mostly when I realized I couldn’t name a single thing that happened after 8 p.m., save for television’s cable lineup. But I still was optimistic about my abilities to see this project through to daylight.

The evening finally came when our team, four writers – Erica Bailey, Jason Dehart, Erica Spivey and myself – and five photographers – Dustin Bryson, Larry Davidson, Scott Holstein, Esra Oktar and Nikki Ritcher – gathered for a last-minute briefing. Looking around the room, I thought, “Could it possibly be that I am already tired?”

Full-blown panic was setting in as I stared at my packed itinerary, as if for the first time. What was I thinking? I’m the editor, after all – can’t I call for a nap break once in a while?

But everyone excitedly headed to their cars, anxious to discover what stories and images the night might hold, so I followed suit. Eleven hours and fifty-two minutes to go.

Our team quickly canvassed the Emerald Coast, and we often crossed paths, encouraging one another and sharing a laugh or two, as well a few Advils as the night wore on.

Around 2 a.m., I still was feeling fairly good (read: functionally coherent). My photographer teammate, Esra, had gotten some great shots, and the resulting exhilaration (along with a very tasty burrito, two Snickers and an obscene amount of Cheetos) had carried me thus far. But just two hours later, we were driving across the Midbay Toll Bridge with the windows down, music on and telling one another stories that made, quite frankly, absolutely no sense, in a desperate attempt to keep going.

At 6:30 a.m., several of us gathered on the beach at Scenic 98, as the sun was making its ascent, warming the white sand and placid turquoise water. We shared stories with each other that, in turn, we proudly share with you in the pages of this magazine: watching an evening wedding on the beach at Seaside; witnessing the birth of a newborn at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center; riding with the U.S. Coast Guard patrol as a man threatened to jump from a bridge; and hungrily learning how doughnuts are made at The Donut Hole, in the early hours of the morning.

As we excitedly told of our adventures, we squinted into the tiny screens of the digital cameras, reliving the moments that had defined our night as well as recounting the “ones that got away.”

And it was done. The night had passed and I had survived.

As bone-weary tired as I felt, it was hard to tear myself away from our impromptu beachside gathering. Once home, by 8 a.m., with the tales of the night whirling in my head and thinking of the feature spread to come, I had to take a moment and laugh. Wouldn’t you know it – I just couldn’t fall asleep.