Being There

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This article is more than 9 years old.

I am a victim of an impulse to record and share.

I recently had an opportunity to ride in a B-17, the mighty Flying Fortress. I have been a fan of that plane all of my life. I was eager to put myself in the aircraft to get a sense of what it must have been like to fly during World War II; to imagine myself over Germany, machine guns blasting, enemy fighters buzzing and flak bursting all around. Naturally I brought my camera.

As soon as my flight was airborne I headed straight to the nose. Filming the props spinning as the San Francisco Bay rushed by. I also got great views from the waist, tail and open roof hatch. I rushed home eager to share the photos and videos on Facebook. People liked them and wished they could have been there too.

"How was it?" they asked. The flight is captured and forever preserved, available to anyone with access to a computer.

"Just look at the videos," I said.


But those HD images fail to capture the true experience, the sounds, the vibrations, the smells, the textures, the feeling of being in an aircraft that fought in the war. Worse still, I have no distinct memory of it. I was there, but I was too busy working the camera, focusing on the perfect shot to notice the world around me. I can't describe what it was like. I can't say how I felt. In the end I missed out on my own experience.

I wonder how many other people are like me; recording and preserving. Always filming their children at recitals, playing sports or just being kids. Sure they have captured the moment, but will they really remember what those times were like? I always enjoyed the stories my parents and grandparents told about their experiences, as well as the vivid journals of people from the distant past. They gave their accounting based only on the memories in their heads. This kind of sharing will be ever harder as we become increasingly fixated on video and pictures on a Facebook page.

I have already marked my calendar for next year. I want to go up again, this time without a camera. I want to see what it is really like in that B-17.

With a Perspective, I'm David Skirmont.

David Skirmont is a computer engineer who lives in Los Gatos. He finds refuge from technology through writing and drawing.