Yesterday, I got to talk with some high school seniors about their memories of 9/11. They would have been in kindergarten, and therefore, among the youngest people to remember that day.
At home last night, I was talking with my sisters and mother about remembering things from that age.
My younger sister is the same age as the students I interviewed – but she doesn’t remember anything from 9/11. My older sister said she doesn’t remember much from kindergarten.
But then I got thinking and I can remember a couple of big events from that age.
I remember the 1992 presidential election and being upset when Bush Sr. wasn’t reelected. I stood in my mother’s room and remember watching the electoral tallies come in.
I also remember my backpack in kindergarten, it was Aladdin and had jewels on it. I also remember the nuns at my Catholic school making a big deal about the first time I wore my glasses to school in an effort to make me feel good about my new look. (Maybe that’s why I’ve never felt a desire to get rid of my glasses….hm….)
I really only have very vague memories of events before that year.
Anyway, do you remember kindergarten? What are your memories?
I wrote a story about the 30th anniversary of his murder – a story that really affected me and made me think.
Since then, I’ve received some feedback from readers, including one I want to share from a pathologist who worked on the Attig case.
Here’s his account:
Your article on Charlie Attig brought back memories. I along with many others in the prosecution of the murderer, was part of the back story. I was the pathologist tasked with the autopsy, something that occurs in deaths of forensic interest even when the cause of death seems obvious. This is to exclude other unexpected causes of death … I had been in practice a little less than a year at Sunbury and was within a few weeks of moving to a new position in Huntingdon when the request came. Although capable of performing the duties, I would not have easily been able to support the legal case from my new hospital, and since it was a policeman, I asked Dr. Hal Fillinger, the Assistant Philadelphia Medical Examiner, a man with (at that time) 20,000+ autopsies to his credit to come to Sunbury and perform the task. At that time there were only three medical examiners in the Commonwealth – two in Philadelphia (Drs. Aronson and Fillinger) and one in Pittsburgh (Dr. Wecht). All pathologists were exposed to forensic pathology in residency back then, and most of us performed forensic autopsies, but genuine forensic pathologists were rare. Dr. Fillinger readily accepted the request to travel the three plus hours to Sunbury.
I was present at the autopsy along with Jim Rodenhaver who I had called to assist Dr. Fillinger. Mr. Rodenhaver was the autopsy assistant at Geisinger and very skilled at his job. He later was to become the Montour County coroner. Dr. Fillinger, a colorful story teller and educator with a constant stream of patter was briefly confused by the appearance of one of the wounds since it didn’t match his expectation based on the reported direction of fire. He stood quietly pondering for awhile and looked back and forth at the wounds until he determined that the unusual appearance was a result of support from the back of the car seat. Charlie had been shot in cold blood in his patrol car and had never had an opportunity to take cover. He had been wearing a bullet proof vest, taking the best precautions he could at the time, but the vest was designed only for pistol rounds and was no match for a rifle bullet – a 30-30 Winchester if I remember correctly. Even if it had been designed for rifle bullets, one of the shots had come in at an angle just under the side of the vest near the left shoulder, the “Achilles heel” as it were of the bullet proof vest.
I performed many autopsies in my career including a number of forensic cases. Pathologists were usually never named directly in newspaper articles; the text typically read ” according to an informed source.” The need for (medical) autopsies has declined markedly, primarily as a result of non-invasive imaging studies such as CT scans and MRIs. New pathologists have comparatively little autopsy experience and many do not have the ongoing forensic experience during residency training that my generation had. Gradually autopsies are becoming centralized to regional centers rather than being part of the fabric of every hospital. Those of us who did forensic cases are now the dinosaurs.
It is ironic that the Charlie Attig case came within the first few months of the beginning of my career and the sad event is remembered in the newspaper in the last few months of the end of my career.
Here’s what the scene looked like when myself and Daily Item photographer Rob Inglis arrived:
What struck me first was the smell. It was a charred wood smell, mixed with a pungent barn smell from the family’s barn across the street.
It’s these smells that stick with you – you get them in your nose and you can smell them for days afterward.
For example, about a month ago, I was on the scene of an accident which happened to be near where a deer carcass was laying. I walked around with the roadkill deer smell in my nostrils for about a week afterward. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Even now, when I smell that roadkill-ish, garbage smell, I think right back to that accident scene.
What takes you back to certain memories? Are you a smeller too?