Around the dinner table Sunday night, we got to comparing notes on the momentous question of "where were you when...?" For starters, specifically "when you first heard about the planes hitting the towers?" Mrs. B was at breakfast, the radio at her elbow. My sister Sally was welcoming to deliverymen who had showed up with a new stove, the television behind her. I was still asleep, in a motel away from home, when the planes hit; when I woke up I flipped on the television and for the first ten minutes, I thought I was watching a movie.
Which naturally segued into the more general question. When you learned, e.g., that John Kennedy had been shot? Oh, I remember that one: I was covering (perhaps dozing over) a boring conference for the newspaper when somebody stepped into the backroom and said "gentlemen, I have some news..." That much is vivid in my mind; indeed, the whole day is vivid. I also remember Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King but here, I have to admit the details begin to blur: which day was which?
;How about the end of World War II? Sally and I remember; Mrs. B, God bless her, was too young. But Sally and I had a time sorting out exactly what part we remembered and from when. At last we settled on the surrender of Japan in August 1945 (I remembered the date as the ninth, but a bit of research suggests it was the 15th). Anyway, we kids organized a parade; we beat pots and pans.
But it turns out there is no end to this game. How about the Challenger disaster? Waco? Oklahoma City? Columbine? Virginia Tech? My own answers, in order: sort of; no; yes; yes; no. After a while, you began to realize that you are up against a severe case of memory overload, with the unsettling insight that after a while they all start to blur into one. Okay, maybe it is just too much publicity but I have all the disasters I can handle and I hope (but do not expect) that I will not have to promise another.
By the way, none of the three of us remembers the day John Lennon died. And I suppose if we did, we would call him simply "John."