Blog inspired by Memories
Some years after my father’s death at age 81, Mom and I were looking through the manila envelope of clippings, certificates, and mementos which provided testimony to his life. Eyeing the documents hungrily, I hoped to feed my relentless genealogical cravings for family history artifacts.
Among the contents was a nearly full-page spread of The Chokio Review from Thursday, January 19, 1967. The headline was “STORM HITS AREA: 29 Students & Teacher Stranded In Bus Seven Hours,” complete with interviews and three photos. A smaller clipping from the Minneapolis Tribune read “CHILDREN SNOWBOUND: Firemen on Foot Lead Bus Rescue.”
Closing my eyes, I shivered, recalling the many times in my childhood when I sat with my siblings in the living room, listening to Dad sharing stories with friends or family. This story was most-requested on dark, blizzardy afternoons, when blowing snow, poor visibility and frigid temperatures combine to create life-threatening conditions.
As a youngster, I liked the story because my own dad was among the heroes who worked together that day to save the lives of schoolmates and neighbors.
I looked again at the clippings, which I had surely seen before. This day, I saw them in a new light. “This story should be expanded and published,” I thought. “This is an amazing tale about ordinary people doing great things.”
Hmm. Let me try that again. “I could write a book about this, “ was what I really thought, and even said aloud. To others. Repeatedly. I even took the plunge and announced my wish to write this book in an article in The Chokio Review. A year ago. And then the brakes of my anxiety screeched the whole project to a virtual standstill. Good intentions were trumped by soul-stomping fear.
What has kept me from giving up completely is the folks who have responded and shared their memories of the Bus Rescue. They have strong emotional connections to this chilling historical event. There are so many more to interview. I’d love to talk with all of them!
Luckily, today’s electronic publishing provides alternatives. I might not be able to write a book, but I can write a blog. By publishing shorter articles on a regular basis, I hope to do an end-run around the anxious paralysis that blocks the idea of writing A Whole Book.
As readers follow this blog and share responses, we will have the opportunity to collaboratively weave and save for posterity a tapestry of memories. What a precious gift that could be for future generations.
Julie thanks "Julie and Julia" For Blog Inspiration
Earlier this year, I read the book “Julie & Julia,” from which a movie was made. It’s the story of Julie Powell, who in one year made all 524 recipes in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. She documented her progress in a blog, and gained a following to urge her on. Voila! Here is my inspiration to write a blog, whether or not a book ever follows.
This blog will also solve a problem: memories vs. facts.
The idea of writing about the Chokio Bus Rescue has stewed in my brain for years now. As it is obviously non-fiction, I worried about how to document facts. Quickly it became obvious that this is a story made of memories, without much verifiable data.
During the first interviews, I made the mistake of implying to interview subjects that the details gathered from other sources were “right.” Each person graciously ignored my innocent audacity. Now I have learned that everyone’s memories are correct, because they own the memories. Full agreement of details among those interviewed is neither necessary nor possible.
To me, the heart of this project is community.
It took a tight community to marshal its resources to save children from perishing in a stranded school bus during a wicked blizzard nearly 50 years ago. It takes a strong community to stay alive when economic forces rage against its survival. It is this community that deserves the opportunity to tell its own story, in its own way, with just a little help from a writer who finds the story, the community, and its people endlessly fascinating.