It was twenty years ago today…

Actually it was 22, but who’s counting.

I was in high school in my Senior Writing Class. My teacher came in to tell us the shuttle had exploded on liftoff. We all thought she was joking. At the time I vaguely remembered there was a teacher on board and my teacher started to cry. We were all in stunned silence.

Eventually, we all saw it on the television in the library. CNN, in it’s infancy then, ran the liftoff over and over and over again. The audio of the telemetry operator as he’s reading the range numbers stayed with me. He knows what happened, yet he’s doing his job choking back his own tears.

I don’t think there was anything quite like it for my generation. Maybe Live Aid would be a touchstone, but I can’t think of anything else that reverberated. I would have to say the first Gulf War would be the next biggest event followed by the obvious terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

History is nothing more than events in context and our memories, in this day and age, are tied to television reports and nearly numbed by repeated viewings.

Now, I’m not one to say that television viewers can’t tell the difference between real and imaginary, but when our leaders are invoking the “Jack Bauer on 24 uses torture to get what he needs, so we can use torture in the real world” argument, I get sick.

People constantly referred to the 9/11 tragedy clips and stills as if it was something out of a movie. I remember talking heads saying on TV how no one ever imagined flying planes into buildings. I also remember thinking these idiots have never read Tom Clancy or a host of other fictionalized accounts of destruction on a large scale.

The American public is getting smarter about figuring out what is truth and what is bullshit, especially in this hotly contested race to the White House. Let me tell you, Barack Obama delivers the finest stump speeches I have ever heard. This guy isn’t Dennis Haysbert playing a black president on 24. He’s the real deal.

Barack Obama… you’ll find him in the non-fiction aisle.