Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pieces of April

Two anniversaries this week, one somber and one weird:

My personal experience with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City --15 years ago yesterday-- is relatively minor. I distinctly remember walking past the LRC in my elementary school and glimpsing at the breaking coverage on CNN. Stunned, I sprinted to my 4th grade classroom to blurt out the news before my principal could make an official annoucement via the PA system. I don't recall getting in trouble for what I did, though in retrospect I probably could've used more restraint; then again, when you're ten years old and you just saw terrorists blow up a building on American soil, you might feel panicky too.

In some odd way, the OKC bombing, its lingering aftermath and lengthy federal investigation was a prelude to the WTC attacks 6 1/2 years later. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil up to that point, with 168 fatalities and nearly 700 people injured. It numbed the fear and panic that most Americans had on 9/11, but not by much. When you hear numbers like that, what immediately comes to mind is some hotspot in the Middle East, not the Great Plains. It was the first time in my life where I genuinely felt scared about my well-being and our nation's security. There was no filter, and no guidance from an wisened adult; I watched its aftermath on live television.

Where the Oklahoma City bombing has a permenant resonance in my mind, the other anniversary I'm acknowledging this week is a little more trivial. On April 22nd, 2005, TV Tome founder John Nestoriak announced that he had sold the site to CNet, who in turn decided to relocate the site and its intellectual property to the domain tv.com. (The sale was finalized in January 2005, but not announced to the public for another three months.) As an editor of several short-lived and half-forgotten TV shows --SNL and Letterman came later-- I was worried that all my hard work was for naught. The regulars at the site were in a panic, and nearly every show forum on "The Tome" went off-topic to debate the future of a site we loved. A fair percentage quit the site when it converted to TV.com six weeks later and never came back.

Luckily, this was a situation were patience and perseverence paid off. Nestoriak and his three-man staff was burned out from day-to-day operations of a web site that was growing if not mushrooming every day. CNet had the resources to enhance and polish the site in ways that Big John never could, and could potentially make it profitable. What was initially a very basic online episode guide-cum-discussion board would become the all-encompassing love letter to the television medium that we know today. TV.com has come a long, long way since the Spring of '05, but you have to give Nestoriak's crew credit for planting the seeds. It was an abrupt end of an era, but the dawn of a new chapter at the same time. Our everyday routines were shook up, there was an awkward period of transition, and we all walked out stronger and wiser.

Next week: the year in music, 1970.

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