WHERE WERE YOU?….When Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, I heard about it in Provo, Utah, where I was attending a conference for high school newspaper editors.
When Reagan was shot in 1981, I heard about it in the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times, where I was working as an intern for a semester.
When Challenger exploded in 1986, I heard about it at work, where I was a technical writer. The only TV we had was over in the marketing department, so that’s where we all went.
When the OJ verdict was announced in 1995, I was again at work, this time as VP of marketing. The nearest TV was in our training room, and about half the company crowded in, waiting breathlessly for the jury’s decision.
When terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001, I was at home in bed. My sister-in-law called and told me to turn on the TV.
Today, when Columbia disintegrated on landing, I first heard about it from Matt Yglesias’ blog. After a double take, I realized what he meant and turned on CNN.
Somehow it doesn’t seem right that it’s mostly bad news and disasters that stick so vividly in our memories. Where was I when I heard the Berlin Wall had fallen? Or the hostages had been released from Tehran? Or Princess Di got married? I don’t remember. I know where I was when Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon (at the dinner table, in a rare relaxation of the rule against TV during dinner), but that’s about it.
It doesn’t seem right, but for better or worse, this is the way we humans seem to operate, retaining a vivid memory of disasters while turning the good times into a homogeneous fog. It’s a pity that we’re built that way.