Your Actual Memories May Vary

IT’S A “WHERE WERE YOU WHEN” DAY, and I do remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. I was at one of my first jobs in publishing, at Alan R. Liss publishers in Greenwich Village. We all were (or seemed) young and excited, thrilled to have jobs, happy to work in the Village, a little in love with our lives. I’ve romanticized those days no end (see my first novel, Life a la Mode, which I’ve set in my old publishing world, where the elevator rarely worked, which we loved, too). We were great, we were young, we weren’t sure who we were, and we were surrounded by others just like us. All in a long room of production editors, separated by the shakiest of cubicles. No personal computers. Imagine that. My boss was only a few years older than me, and we talked about cats and books and New York, and we loved that we had the chance to do this. One day, a guy named Ed, a bit of a joker (not unlike the rest of us), came running through the room, yelling, “The Challenger exploded; the Challenger exploded.” Someone laughed, maybe several of us. Just the kind of thing Ed might say. But a moment later we realized Ed wasn’t being very Ed-like. Someone produced an old transistor radio (no personal computers! We learned what we knew the old-fashioned way, though word of mouth, like Ed’s). True, one of the higher-ups upstairs had a TV, but we all stood around on our own floor, in our own production room, and listened to the old black radio. It could have been the 1930s, except we’re talking about a rocket ship, and it had exploded. I was so glad to be in that room at that moment. I’m fairly sure I didn’t leave the room for lunch (not that we often did). Those were innocent days when we each saw the horror in our own minds before viewing it (over and over, naturally) on a TV screen. We listened to the report, the details, the screams of the crowd, the waiting to hear if anyone could have survived, then finally, one of our superiors (thus about 4 years older than me) quietly walked up, shut off the radio, and put it away. Leaving us with each other, and quiet. I could hear the other editors breathe, for hours. I was in the right place. I loved them for getting me through that day.


One thought on “Your Actual Memories May Vary

  1. I was in the locker room of a smelly gym in Westwood, New Jersey when the Challenger exploded. I could hear the announcement over the speakers.

    I was also in a gym when the Twin Towers came down. They showed it on the big screen TV.

    Now we have the Internet and Twitter so maybe I don’t need to go to the gym anymore to find about about disasters.

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