Thursday, February 3, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Third Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

There are some events that you remember as much for what didn’t happen as for what did. In September of 2001I remember watching a small television in the bullpen where I was working at the time, and I remember watching the second plane approaching the second tower. And I remember thinking, “That plane is going to fly past the tower, that plane is going to fly past the tower”, and then it didn’t. And my eyes automatically went to the empty space, past the tower, where the plane should’ve been, but it wasn’t. My eyes darted back to the place where the plane flew into the tower, and less than a second later there was an explosion. I see it in my mind, again and again, and the plane never flies past and my eyes always dart back to the place where the plane flies into the tower and then explodes. But I want it to be in the place where it flies past and doesn’t explode, and I want us, all of us, to be in the place where it flies past and doesn’t explode, I want us to still live there.

It was much like that for me, and others as well I am sure, with the Challenger disaster. I know I was home sick on January 28, 1986 because I was sitting in my parents’ living room eating soup off a TV tray when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. As the Challenger was the first space mission to include a civilian, school teacher Christa McAuliffe, all the American school kids were in front of televisions at that point as well, from elementary through the high school. And everybody saw it explode.

Everything is fine, it is fine, and then it explodes. And the men on the TV box stop talking until the one says that there has been a major malfunction. And until that point I thought it might be okay. Weird, but okay, like one of those other little rockets that flew off from the main flight path might be the one that the astronauts were really on, and not the shuttle, not the center of that explosion.

I remember standing up, looking closely at the TV then, as if I could look closer and see a time or a place somewhere inside the smoke cloud where the shuttle didn’t explode. In the television feed when you watch it today they close in on the Challenger right before the explosion and then it explodes and then there is a cut back to the other camera which then focuses in on the two small rocket boosters, the only pieces surviving the explosion. And they go off in two separate directions, giving the already twisted smoke path two “horns” that we all became exceedingly familiar with soon after due to the Weekly World News showing the picture again and again on cover after cover with the tagline “SATAN VISIBLE IN CHALLENGER EXPLOSION” with a devil face superimposed over the main smoke cloud. Which was kind of brilliant in its way, if incredibly sick. The Weekly World News definitely had their finger on the pulsebeat of the Satanic zeitgeist.

But as many times as I saw the Challenger video the face of Satan never showed up, any more than the seven astronauts showed up riding one of the unexploded booster rockets. Anymore than that second plane flew past the second tower. Again, again, again – the same again, no matter how many times I remember it, no matter how many times I try to misremember it, no matter what I do.