They knew this was coming for half a year. They knew this was coming Thursday. But it wasn't until the cold morning air hit their faces on the way out of the plant less than an hour after the 6 am shift started that the reality of it hit home. Done. No more NUMMI.
At Country Way, where they gathered for a last meal together, the din had a curiously happy quality. Members of the Tacoma body shop unit laughed, rather than cried. They joked with each other, almost giddy with disbelief and a little bewilderment. Some had vacations lined up. Others didn't. Some had saved. Others hadn't. Some knew exactly what they wanted to do next. Others hadn't the foggiest notion.
I think about the last time I had no idea where I was going to go, or what I was going to do with my life. Most of us have been there. Some of us have been there several times.
It's a moment of great opportunity, that moment when you can move in any direction. It's exciting, but also terrifying, and privately profound.
Jeff Enlow took some lovely photos of the breakfast.
I produced a feature for The California Report, which aired Friday morning.