by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 24, 2008
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- It's become a cliché to be reminded to live in the moment: you can't go back and no one knows what lies ahead, so we are to live in the moment. And, as if we received a poke in the ribs, we're expected to understand, "that's why they call it the "present." Get it?
There used to be years and years between heart-stopping events, moments frozen in time, events so large that a single word will take you back into that moment - and everything connected with it unfolds within the darkened corners of our memories.
Just say: Hindenberg and the shouts and cries captured in the radio voice of eyewitnesses during the 37 seconds of the flaming disaster are enough to remind you of the entire story of the ill-fated end to the huge, rigid airship that had left Frankfurt, Germany, three days before.
As I go over my personal recollections I don't think anything after the 1937 Hindenberg tragedy so captured the hearts of our nation until four years later, when Pearl Harbor became the powerful force etching the moment, that single moment, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, as one we'd never forget.
Over the next 50 years, there were twists and turns to the news of the day that would be exceptional enough to capture our full attention, but they were few compared to the list of events grasping our fullest attention, electrifying us with a shock that won't release us until we fully comprehend what we are witnessing.
We finally comprehend that the unbelievable is happening, it is not a nightmare, we will not waken from it, we simply must acknowledge it as it plays out. Everyone knows those moments: Kennedy's assassination is one such event. But this is not a timeline - this is a personal look at what has transpired during my relatively short tenure as a Correspondent for The American Reporter, the first online daily.
The American Reporter celebrates its 13th anniversary this month. I have been writing a weekly column since October 1997. In scanning my table of contents to jog my memory about my topics each week, I was more than a little surprised to see articles on subjects that have touched us all during the decade.
On September 4, 2001, I wrote "Dancing on the Lawn at the End of Summer," a personal reflection that created an image not of me but of "peace." In this case, peace was acceptance, that summer was over. It was a poignant moment for me.
In one short week, though, the idea of peace took on a wholly different meaning: 9/11. Need I say more? "Nine eleven" says it all. We all know what, when, who and where - it's "why" that escapes us. We are still frozen in that moment and at the same time speechless.
The dividing line in our memory seems to be that day. Everything changed. What can we do? We can clean up; we can send money to survivors. We had to do something! What? Nobody knew and those who did do something were getting it all wrong. The hour of 8:47AM on 9/11/01 was a defining and dividing moment.
In February 2003, I wrote: "Some events strike us personally with impact as great as universal calamities. But this week, we all stand in disbelief knowing the Columbia shuttle did not complete the mission with the anticipated safe landing. The seven astronauts aboard perished in an explosion of unknown origin."
On April 20 this year, we will no doubt be placing wreathes at Columbine High School, where in 1999 there was a school shooting that shocked the world. I remember two "nice boys," judging by their school pictures, and the process of getting to know their "nice parents," through interviews on television, and learning how it was that they knew nothing of their son's predilection for the dark side; and the 14 students, including the killers, who lost their lives. That was in Littleton, Colo.
Recently we noted the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. The New York Times pictures a lone person placing a wreath where 32 persons were killed over two hours before the killer took his own life. Our shock is genuine, our sorrow sincere, but once again, although we know who, what, where and when, we continue to grapple with "why?"
Are we jaded, world-weary? Is it too much for us? Are we oblivious to shock now? Are we worried about the footsteps coming up behind us in this wonderful land of freedom from fear?
Fortunately, I am not afraid of the unknown, but I am afraid of becoming so detached from what is going on around me that I will lose my caring nature. I don't look for any future moments frozen in time, but should one come, I don't want to miss the affront to my sensibilities by considering it predictable. I just might finally be able to learn "why."
To live in the moment is a valuable mindset; but, to me, pretending that every day is my last day has more worth to it. After all, we never know what is waiting around the next corner.