[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/09/30/greene.trail/art.hudson.panolian.jpg caption="William 'Son' Hudson, 65, was the director of Panola County's emergency operations."]ABOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN) - On the morning of last week's presidential debate, I walked, as I had every day since arriving in Mississippi, along Highway 6 in Batesville.
It's a stretch of road with local businesses and chain fast-food restaurants along both sides, and no sidewalks, just grass and gravel. I had gotten to know the businesses by name and by sight: Yolanda's Tax Service, Smith Cleaners, Mary Nell's Blossoms, Mike's Bargains, dozens more.
Batesville is a town of about 7,000 residents some 30 minutes from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where the debate was to be held. By late morning of debate day, the temperatures were already in the 80s, and the sun was unrelenting. I was thinking, as I walked, what a pleasant and peaceful routine this had become.
At the East Oaks Shopping Center, a small strip of shops across from the local Wendy's, I turned down a driveway toward the perimeter of the storefronts, just to make the walk a little longer. As I headed back up to Highway 6, I heard the sound of what I thought was a fender-bender.
Then my eyes became unable to fully take in what they were seeing.