Memory is an amazing and complicated thing. As we look over the possibility of another Space Shuttle tragedy I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up in the early 80’s. In fact, I have a memory of when President Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963 and I was only 3 years old. I remember coming back from a visit to my grandparents home sitting in the middle of the back seat of our car. I don’t remember hearing the news as much as I remember my parent’s reaction to the news. A little older I remember Martin Luther King being shot and Robert Kennedy but I don’t have the event etched like President Kennedy for some reason. I remember the first steps on the moon, being on my knees in front of our black and white TV hearing Armstrong’s words, “That’s one small step …” I remember President Ford being shot but I don’t have it etched like when President Reagan was shot, I know where I was and exactly what I was doing at the time. The only other two things would be the Space Shuttle and 9/11 that has been etched so deeply in my memory.
It is as if my mind has been branded. The brand has been heated in an open fire to the point where the metal is orange with black speckled imperfections. Then the unstable hand of world events coalesce at a determined time to firmly grasp the brand and presses it against the gray matter of my brain. Searing, not just the event, but also my every action and thought that surrounded that event. So I not only remember that I was watching a black and white TV at the time of the first step on the moon, but I also remember being on my knees, in shorts with a striped shirt staring at the TV which was at the time on the South wall of our living room.
Memory. I just finished a Science Fiction book on the battle of man versus smart machines. A machine would be able to remember more exactly what, when and where than our minds but it would not be able to tell how it would impact us. A machine would not be seared to its very core by an event causing all future firings of the neurons to go around the new brand. We are certainly fearfully and wonderfully made ….