Monday, November 10, 2008

"We Interrupt This Broadcast ..."

When I agreed to review the updated 10th Anniversary edition of We Interrupt This Broadcast by Joe Garner, I knew that it would be an emotional experience but I had no idea to what degree. This is a 200 page coffee-table book that documents 46 historical events through our tradition of late-breaking headlines on radio and television. The book has over 200 black and white photographs that document each story and a few pages of text that give background information and some short quotes. It is a very handsome book and the photos are well-chosen.

The real gem of this set are the three accompanying CDs, narrated by the well-known Bill Kurtis. He gives background and commentary for each event and then we hear original recordings from radio or television. Most of us have some of the famous quotes from these events in our social consciousness, perhaps without even knowing the specific incidents that inspired these statements. For example, "Oh, the humanity!" came from a broadcast as journalist Herb Morrison stood watching the unexpected explosion of the airship Hindenburg. As Morrison's voice cracks and he tells us that he can no longer continue speaking, we understand the intensity and unbelievable sadness of this disaster.

There are a few joyous occasions in this book such as the end of World War II, the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall but unfortunately we are also asked to remember far too many assassinations, wars, and mechanical and natural disasters. Of course, most of these broadcasts are of a tragic nature because this was the type of event that needed to be communicated immediately to the American people. I will admit that I was not looking forward to listening to some events like the Kennedy and MLK Jr. assassinations and I stopped before the September 11 broadcasts. I am not yet ready to revisit that terrible day.

These are incredibly moving historical milestones and I will admit to choking up and even shedding some tears as I listened to the audio tracks. I am too young to have experienced most of them but of course I studied them in school. The first breaking news event that I can remember in my lifetime that is covered in this book is the shuttle Challenger explosion. I was in the 4th grade and, before our eyes, the celebration of the first school teacher in space turned into an unbelievable tragedy. I still remember the feelings of shock and sadness as I watched the deaths of those brave seven astronauts, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe. It was comforting, though, to hear the words of Ronald Reagan again, reminding us that in order to have progress, we must be prepared for setbacks.

We Interrupt This Broadcast would be a fantastic gift so keep it in mind for anyone with an interest in American history. The book and CDs are of the highest quality and the emotional experience is profound.

Experiencing our living history,

Buy We Interrupt This Broadcast with 3 CDs: The Events That Stopped Our Lives...from the Hindenburg Explosion to the Virginia Tech Shooting on Amazon or find it at your local library.

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