Monday, November 9, 2009

Not an eyewitness to history

So much history 20 years ago between the middle of October and the middle of November -- the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the Bay Area and disrupted the World Series and several weeks later, the Berlin Wall came down. Two major moments in U.S. and world history...

and I missed them both.

As it happened, I was at sea throughout that eventful fall on the R/V Westward along with 23 other students as we headed south as part of the Sea Semester program.

In both instances, we learned about events well after they occurred, making landfall first in Antigua where we got details about the earthquake and then later, as we headed farther south, discovering that the Berlin Wall had come down while we were gone.

In today's ultra-connected world, it's odd to think that you could be out of touch so completely that you would miss milestone events in history. One of the products made by the company I work for is an antenna system and global network of satellite communications that offers the equivalent of a cable modem experience at sea so even in the middle of the Atlantic the world is simply a mouse click or telephone call away.

Even 20 years ago, we at least had radio. Thinking about it, I believe we did get word of the earthquake while at sea -- one of the students was from the Bay Area and the SEA staff tracked down her family, confirmed that everyone was OK, and radioed the ship to let her know. But that was it. No other details. No television images. No text messages with "OMG wall is dwn" to keep us up to date.

Instead, we were in a bubble unconnected and seemingly untethered from the rest of the world and it was a wonderful thing.

Pretty much everywhere I go now, I carry my iPhone. I'm available by phone, by e-mail, by text message. I can get on the web, I can send and receive photos, I stay up to date with events as they happen, regardless of where I am. Today at work, I heard a few people reminiscing about watching the live footage of the events in Berlin -- the people on the Wall, the celebrations, all the things that come to mind when you're asked the question "Where were you when you were watching..."

I found myself smiling because I didn't really have an answer. I wasn't anywhere that I would have been able to watch and part of me thrills at the memory of how amazing it felt to set foot on a new island and be told that while I'd been at sea, the world had changed in some dramatic way.

1 comment:

Oceanmama3 said...

Your post gave me chills, Chris. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughs and memories. I have the same exact thoughts and memories as you in this instance, and it is so great to know that we both just understand.