Archive for November, 2013

Posterity

November 27, 2013

Back in Ye Olden Days, you could witness historic events only once, or rather, only as many times as the network chose to show them. Then along came the VCR and you could record momentous things and play them back again.
And now we have Youtube. I don’t have the time for videos of somebody’s cat going crazy over a Lady Gaga or a dog getting its head stuck in an ice cream carton. What I like to look at on Youtube are videos of historic moments, as covered by various networks. Many of these events were before my time, but I venture to say that the passage of time has not diminished their impact. It’s one thing to watch a documentary put together later, but when you watch actual live news coverage of that same event, as it happened, it can often stop you cold. These old clips still have an almost eerie immediacy about them.
Fifty years can’t diminish the effect of hearing Walter Cronkite’s voice break with sorrow as he announced that President Kennedy was dead.
Twenty-six years can’t dull the delight and relief in reporter Bruce Hall’s voice as he exclaimed “Why, here she comes!” as a little girl named Jessica was rescued from a well she’d fallen down more than two days earlier.
Even after twenty-seven years, watching the space shuttle Challenger lift off into a cold Florida sky with an ordinary science teacher aboard is chilling. We the Youtube-watchers already know the outcome; we know the shuttle was doomed before it cleared the launch pad. Watching the jubilant lift-off, we want to shout “No, stop! Abort! Wait for a warmer day!” But the people we’re watching in the video are frozen in time, unaware of the tragic turn of events about to take place in just over a minute.
Even having experienced my very own East Coast earthquake, it’s still startling to watch a clip of the 1989 World Series, watching the video feed suddenly begin to break up and hearing sportscaster Al Michaels cry out “We’re having an earth–!” just before the power went out.
And it still stirs the heart to hear Whitney Houston sing the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, at the height of the first Gulf War, even though her beautiful voice is now forever silenced.
I don’t like to think of myself as having “geeky” habits, but I guess hunting up examples of old news coverage is just such a habit.