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Jun. 18th, 2005 01:07 pm

Time Warp

I'm re-watching my ER reruns on video. A lot of them I had taped off TNT in batches, back in the old days when I had cable, but some of the more recent seasons I have the original airings from NBC.

Complete with the commercials and the first 10 minutes or so of the original 11:00 news from NBC.

From 2000 and 2001 and 2002.

It is very strange hearing the (original) presidential vote recount, a very special Third Watch based on the real live heroes of 9-11, Baltimore airport security upgrades, looking for Osama Ben Laden back when that was a priority, finding anthrax - all in real time.

It's a little like reading primary source documents from a point in history and imagining yourself there, except I really was there, not at any of these places, of course, but there at home watching the news and reacting to it primarily. So it's more like a flashback - a flashback to a collective memory, rather than a personal one.

But on one level it is personal, because these were the first events about which I really ever followed the news. Before college I considered myself too young, and made a clear demarcation between history (good) and anything I could remember - current events (bad) and in college I lived in a very pleasant Ivory Tower Under a Rock. But when I was teaching, the kids read Time and Newsweek and USA today and asked questions about what they read. And I discussed it with them. We all did. I was the one who had to wake up the kids the day after the election and explain to them that we didn't know who the president was, yet, after all. I wasn't the one who had to explain 9-11 to them initially, but I was the one there at dinner going into it in more depth, and the one who was putting the kids on the phone as their parents called in from DC and NYC and elsewhere. I was the one who took the kids to the airport in Baltimore and walked past the National Guard members in full uniform, hands on loaded weapons, the one who had to get special permission to walk my young students down to their gates, the one who took her shoes off and got wanded every six weeks without ever getting on a plane. I was the one teaching a classic microbiology lesson which used anthrax as an example to kids who had mountains of terrified questions based on their media exposure, whose equivalent peers two years earlier had never heard of the bacteria, just the music group. I was the one who had a young eleven year old ask at bedtime, "What's biological warfare?"

It never occurred to me before that by videotaping a show every week for years on end, I was also collecting a piece of current events that is morphing into history. My history. Our history. Whether we want it or not.

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