Thursday, June 18, 2009
What’s the first news event you can remember?
In my case, I long believed it to be the first moon landing, in July 1969. I have a vague memory of my father sitting me down and telling me to watch something on TV about the space program, saying it was important.
But in recent years, and especially as I’ve been reading about the upcoming 40th anniversary of that event, I’ve come to doubt my memory. I was 2 ½ at the time, and the moon landing occurred late at night in my time zone. I would have been asleep. Neither of my parents recall making me watch it.
What’s more, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among people my age. Many of us seem to believe we remember the moon landing. Several of my coworkers who are my contemporaries called it the first news event they remember too – and it’s just as unlikely in their case as it is in mine.
Are we all imagining things?
I don’t think so. Instead, I think we’re simply conflating our many separate memories about space flights that were made in the early 1970s. Maybe we remember any of the five subsequent moon landings that occurred during Apollo space missions in the early 1970s. The final moon landing, part of the Apollo 17 mission, occurred in December 1972 – it’s entirely plausible that I would remember that.
I definitely remember splash-downs from the Apollo missions – those tiny capsules crashing into the sea, trailing their colorful parachutes, and the clambering Navy frogmen.
I think it’s interesting that people my age believe we remember something we probably don’t. It just goes to show how deceptive memories can be, especially very early ones, and how we can “create” them out of subsequent events or information we learn later.
For the record, I do remember U.S. soldiers coming home from Vietnam after our part in the war ended in 1973. And I remember Richard Nixon’s resignation, but that’s no surprise – by then, I would have been nearly eight. (Like many kids, I thought Watergate had something to do with a dam!)
(Photo: Psychedelic pig or hippo street art, SoHo, June 2009)