Today’s news is tomorrows history and I wonder if in the future as family historians dig through our past if they will wonder like I do what a relative was doing during a historical event. What were they doing when the Civil War started, or the Great Depression hit. How did they get their news and how old was it.
So much of today’s news is delivered by the television and even faster by internet. Gone are the days of day old newspapers and town criers. I remember John F Kennedy’s death or at least I think I remember his death because the television replayed it over and over on the news, year after year. I was 4 at the time of his death. Maybe I think I remember his death more clearly because of his brother’s Bobby’s assassination 5 years later, it would bring film of the earlier assassination back into the news.
In 1980 I was dating a man who idolized John Lennon. When the news came through that John Lennon had been shot I knew it would break this man’s heart.
I do remember clearly the day that the space shuttle Challenger exploded killing all seven on board. I was standing in my sunny yellow kitchen on a cold January day. My small black and white tv was tucked into a corner on my counter top, I had just reached over and turned it on and the take off was being shown. I watched in horror with the rest of the world.
I remember in 1989 my niece being shocked that I knew that the Berlin wall had come down. She had been living in Europe during that time and had returned to the states for a visit. She couldn’t quite grasp the enormity of the event, it’s creation predating her birth. For her it was a wall that a lot of people were excited about coming down. I got my news about the wall like so many others, from the television the morning following.
September 11, 2001, I walked into work like I did every day, put my things on the desk, started up my computer and the conference room door flew open. My friend Juan stood there looking at me, his eyes wide in shock. An airplane flew into the World Trade Center, he told me. I ran down the hall to the break room and joined several others watching tv in horror. There it was, disaster and confusion in Technicolor. No one knew exactly what had happened and why and the speculations were flying both on the tv and off. I made a trip back down the hall to my desk and then back again to the break room, walking in just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower. I watched, my eyes forcing my brain to accept images that it could not comprehend. I could hear one of the employees sobbing. I remember looking outside the large windows that went from floor to ceiling, the sunshine glittering through, an odd juxtaposition to the imagines on tv of the chaos in New York City.
We were stunned, and walked around that way for weeks. I would spend long days posting information for employees to keep them updated on changes in process, all a result of the insanity of September 11. I am not sure when the feeling of “safe” returned or if in its place there is a more guarded version, always slightly skeptical.