March 28 was the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Three Mile Island Meltdown. Walter Cronkite labeled it the “worst nuclear power plant accident of the atomic age.” (And somehow Walter Cronkite’s fatherly delivery makes that sound comforting. “America has achieved another record and we are all safe and Mom is making cake to celebrate.")
In December this year, it will be the 30th anniversary of the stampede at the Who concert in Cincinnati. (You may recall that being a plot driver in a “WKRP in Cincinnati” sitcom episode. Yes, sitcom.) Yes, I live in Cincinnati, but, other than that, why am I bringing this up?
On May 27, sandwiched between Three Mile Island Meltdown and The Who Tragedy anniversaries, Karen and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
Natural and man-made disasters happen every year and most couples can probably share anniversaries with memorable horrific events. So, TMI and The Who? - no big deal. However, we have another tragedy preserved forever in our memories.
A friend of the family was into photography and took photos at our wedding. He knew that a cool way to provide a sort of time capsule to the event was to photograph the front page of the local paper on the wedding day. We got married in Cincinnati and the front page of the local paper that day had a half-page photo very much like the one here of a plane turned sideways about to become, “In terms of total fatalities … the deadliest single airliner accident on US soil.” (The crash occurred on the 25th, but in those days, boys and girls, there were no 24-hour cable stations and it took the Pony Express two days to get the photos from Chicago to Cincinnati.)
His photos in our album start off with that newspaper story on the front page, as if providing a theme for our marriage: “The worst disaster of its kind in America. Ever.”
The front page also shows that it was cloudy that day and I seem to remember that it rained a bit. Rain is supposed to be bad luck on your wedding day - except when it isn’t. (see #1 here). I don't know if whatever rain we had was a worse sign than a plane crash, but probably neither really means anything.
The plane crash was a discrete event, hardly remembered now. There were other disasters of the era that spanned years – the Carter Presidency and Disco, most notably - but they are also long gone.
Yet, despite the tragic portent of the Cincinnati Enquirer, 3o years later, like the cancer-causing toxicity of Three Mile Island, our marriage lingers on.
Isn’t it ironic?