Tuesday, August 09, 2005

the window gets smaller...

the death of peter jennings affected me more than i realized it would. around the time he took over as anchor of the national news on abc, i was a burgeoning being of pubescent teenhood, not yet a teen but no longer a child who was blissfully unaware of the drama playing out around me. his telecasts were among the first i viewed as a mind curling around the idea of things actually happening outside of my neighborhood. i can remember how his voice, deep and crystalline like a clear pond one could see to the bottom, beckoning to me from the television. it was inviting and mellow, yet urbane, like a summer stroll in central park. frankly, i thought he was british, but that's because his accent sounded just different enough for me to know he wasn't from the US. his face featured aspects i had never seen before, being a black girl growing up in the ghetto. he was very handsome to me, although i still had a heartstopping crush on marcus allen, the most beautiful man in the world to me at that time.

mind you, i didn't watch world news tonight every day. in fact, i spent most of that time reading. however, my parents watched it faithfully, so i could always hear his voice from my bedroom, every now and then interrupting my devouring of the tales of pippi longstocking with hiccups of the real world. his voice was the soothing tether that kept me connected to the people and events taking place outside of pippi's world of adventures.

as the years went on and i went from child to teenager to adult, jennings' voice was one of the few constants threaded throughout the events of all of these eras. jennings the newscaster was the guy i was watching when the challenger disaster occurred. i was on the phone call with two of my friends, my eyes sporadically shifting to the television as i watched the shuttle take off. i was lounging on the couch and listening to a joke one of my friends had just said when i glanced back at the television just in time to see the challenger explode. i wasn't even sure what i had just seen. i rewound my mind, trying to remind myself that i was indeed watching the challenger take off. then i heard jennings say "the challenger has just exploded". i remember dropping the phone and putting both hands to my mouth to cradle the startled gasp that feel from my lips. the world was suddenly a scary place because i had just witnessed seven people die. by the time i grabbed the phone and put a rushed ending to the adolescent and innocent conversation, my adolescence and innocence were draining from me in the wake of what i had just experienced.

i was at home by myself, which made it worse because i had nobody to tell me everything would be alright. nobody except for jennings. his voice was calm and his demeanor was in control as he explained what i had just saw. i hung to his voice and image like the sight of a boat's crew clinging to the beam of light from a lighthouse during a violent storm. he was my beacon right then, his voice the brandy calming my nerves as i tried to wrap my mind around the moment. i sat in front of the television for hours, not watching but listening. i couldn't focus my eyes, but my ears grabbed onto everything fiercely. by the time my mom got home later in the day, i had calmed and was able to function again. i thank jennings for that.

he did the same for me on september 11. he made sense of an act that was senseless on a day that left me without sensation, only a numbness that lingered for weeks afterwards. however, his presence on my television on that day brought me the remembered calm of the challenger disaster. watching him that day, i felt as though i was cloaked in a treasured blanket of protection, one i pulled out of the closet every time i was feeling vulnerable. he was that treasured blanket for me.

the door to the era of my childhood has been closed for some time now, but it seems the window in the door becomes smaller with the passing of more of the people who lived today as my links to it. i know it is selfish of me to wish for them all to live eternaly, if only for the purpose of ensuring me the ability to conjure up feelings and images from my childhood with but a flick of a channel, but i can't help it. i can't help but feel that the death of jennings has forever robbed me of one more thread connecting me to the experiences to my past.

one more pane in the window on the door to my past that has been forever blackened, robbing me of sight into those times i experienced with his canadian flavored voice drumming in the background.

so long peter. i will miss you.