I remember the night Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
Television was still at the stage that the first news was voiced under a graphic slide stating, “Bulletin.” There were no portable videotape or digital cameras, and it would be later before the first film pictures were dispatched from Memphis.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be 86 this week. His contemporaries in the civil rights movement are now old men.
It made me think how more and more events that have changed the course of history in my lifetime are quickly becoming events of history books or the material we look up on the Internet.
As a teen, I remember hearing a World War I veteran talk about being a doughboy, a member of the Army.
We have lost all of our World War I vets, and the number of World War II vets is quickly declining.
I heard my mother talk of her hardscrabble upbringing during the Great Depression. Many of her generation are gone and the stories are found primarily in books and on TV history shows.
In my lifetime, a president has been assassinated, man has walked on the moon and we have ended racial segregation.
I have also seen radical changes in technology going from a dial phone we identified by only the last four digits of the number to a telephone that can call anywhere in the country without a long-distance charge and fits in your pocket.
I have seen things come and go. I have seen audio and videotape come into vogue and then become a dinosaur. I have watched televisions go from a giant box to a flat screen.
The thing that is amazing is we have the ability to record our own history and sadly are failing to take advantage of it.
The use of so-called smartphones has rendered the conversation almost obsolete. I regret, with the early generation camcorders of my era, I failed to record the voices and stories of my parents.
While my father didn’t talk much about his early life and military service, I would have tried to learn more about the events that shaped his life.
Most people have a device at hand that can record the words and remembrances of those now living. A generation from now, we’ll be trying to recall stories from an earlier time.
Few people remaining can tell us about life before electricity and running water. Then, some people like me can remember when TV was a fuzzy black-and-white picture and researching a subject involved using encyclopedias or making a trip to a library.
The mature generations that are still with us could easily enlighten today’s youngsters by simply sharing their stories of lives well lived. Telling a story isn’t hard. Just start at childhood and begin from there.
Some things that we take for granted could one day be a learning experience for a future generation.
My remembrance of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. was hearing he had little children who were about my age. I found it hard to understand why a person would kill someone’s daddy.
I hope a future generation will read this and understand this moment in history was a time of change and uncertainty for us all.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.