How long does a story stick with you?
At a book club earlier this summer, a woman who grew up about 45 minutes from Waseca told me she remembered clearly the Zimmerman family story of 1959 that I share in my book. She said she and her family followed news of that story for at least a couple of years after, even though they had no ties to the family or to the town.
I don’t think that was unusual. In the late 1950s, 1960s, probably through the 1970s and maybe even the 1980s (before the advent of 24-hour news), news stories offered depth and breadth. Major stories were often revisited, and not just on anniversaries.
In small-town Minnesota, communities shared in collective grief and tragedies. They cared about people involved and wanted to keep up with them for years after.
Today I’m afraid news comes and goes so fast that we don’t linger on anything anymore. We click “like” on our Facebook feeds and off we are to the next thing. Ferguson, Mo., remains in the news because of the continued unrest, but how long will people not directly involved continue to care and be aware?
In Minnesota, a Mendota Heights police officer was shot and killed a few weeks ago. The outpouring of support for his family was tremendous. But even now, how many people still routinely think of the widow and the daughters? If this were 1959 Minnesota, the woman in that book club would have still been following this story and keeping tabs on that family for months, maybe even years, following their progress, sharing in their milestones. But I’m afraid most people have already forgotten about Michelle, Erin and Amy.
What happens when we no longer have a collective memory or collective bonds? When we forget to care because we’ve moved on to the next thing?