The Treehouse + The Cave

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Thursday, February 10, 2005



On January 28th, 1986, I was 6 and in the 1st grade. Sitting at the front of the classroom, I remember staring at the integrated clock/intercom, and killing time analyzing the Simplex logo's black widow markings while I waited for the broadcast to begin.

Unusual for my school, my teacher had managed to procure a television on which to watch the launch of the Challenger, it came into the room slowly on a black cart with flat tires. Later, I'd learn that many gradeschool students and their instructors watched that day, more interested than ever in the space program knowing that a civilian and teacher had been allowed to go.

At about 11:30, the TV was plugged in and turned on, several minutes prior to the live coverage we were itching to see. I sat quietly through the introduction, countdown, removal of the red support structure and then through the launch, irritated at the oohs and aahs of my peers. 73 seconds later, they were just as silent as I was. The spaceship had exploded, instantly bookmarking that day in history and in our young lives. The silence remained unbroken by anything other than a mournful voiceover, as the broadcast went on and the single static camera never blinked. The television was left on and the teacher wordless until the principal activated the intercom. He explained what had happened to the kids without a live feed, and then asked us to return to our studies.

Anonymous Adam thought:

Odd how it's the disasters that watermark our little lives. I was in the fifth grade when it happened, still living in Iowa. I think that was the first disaster I was old enough to get my head around. Looking back a little further, the only thing I remember about kindergarten in '80 is tying yellow ribbons around things during the hostage crisis that was going on at the time.

Is it good or bad that we learn about the pain in the world from TV?

February 11, 2005 at 12:40 AM - Comment Permalink  
Anonymous Anonymous thought:

adam: see susan sontag's "on photography" as well as her nyt article on abu gharib and latest book. although she deals more with how endless photographs of suffering have numbed and anesthetized us against the pain they represent, it can apply to television as well. check it out.

February 11, 2005 at 10:38 AM - Comment Permalink  

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