Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where Were You?

YouTube is pretty amazing. I was home sick today and found myself thinking about the Challenger disaster of 1986. Within minutes I was re-watching the footage of that day. I remember I was with my grandmother that cold, gray January day. We were both napping, then woke up to find out what had happened on the news. I remember feeling the complete disbelief many felt, when I saw what was obviously a fatal explosion of the craft. I couldn't conceive that Christa McAuliffe could be dead. I thought: "N.A.S.A. would never put an ordinary citizen in such danger." Wrong.

There's nothing like live footage, which you find yourself watching over and over again. It's almost as if you're looking for the exact moment when something else could have happened to avert disaster. But then the disaster keeps happening over and over again. It's an odd feeling.

I do not remember watching the Reagan
assassination attempt live, but later. This footage really captures the confusion and mayhem of the moment. The police and secret service officers can't even get the patrol car door open to arrest the suspect! There's a lot of swearing and yelling. I always felt awful for what happened to James Brady that day, though I applaud his later efforts to work towards gun control. Brady even got Reagan to endorse the Brady Bill! Until I read up on the incident, I had forgotten that Reagan had actually been hit. The bullet punctured his lung, and if it had traveled another inch to his heart Reagan likely would have died. March 30, 1981--- I would have been in high school that day.

When Columbine happened, I was in Amsterdam. I did not find out until later in that evening, after a day touring tulip gardens, when my friend and I watched the news. It was very odd to experience an American tragedy from a European perspective. We felt like we weren't getting all the information, and that there was a lot more coverage in the U.S. that we were missing. We felt understandably a little homesick.

Of course the ultimate disaster coverage caught live on tape is 9/11/2001. I remember it was a fairly sunny Tuesday morning, and I was at work. When I first heard about the planes, I thought it was the World Trade Center in Boston. I worried about my aunt, who at the time worked for the government at the Kennedy Building in Government Center. Despite the idea that Boston could be under terrorist attack, I calmed myself and thought: "Okay. I'll deal with what's coming." Since I worked in a public school with 350 children, I did not see the footage as it was unfolding. The principal decided watching television live would be too upsetting to the kids. The first time I saw anything that had happened was that afternoon when I got home. My mouth dropped open when I first saw the image of the planes flying into the World Trade Center. It was just too horrible and shocking to believe.

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