I don't wake up each morning thinking, “I'm going to see a video of a field trip from fifth grade today.”
But, that's what happened Feb. 15 when Tejay Riddle, another former classmate from Mitchell, Indiana tagged me on Facebook with a YouTube video, “Dennis Watterson teaching his Burris Elementary kids about local Mitchell History.” I had seen the video once years ago, but when I went back to search for it I was unable to find it again. Until now.
The video, uploaded by to YouTube by his son, Justin Watterson, was recorded in 1993.
I hit play and there I am right at the start in the very front of the crowd in my Atlanta Braves windbreaker and sneakers; my notebook and writing utensil at the ready. I'm watching this at my desk at work. I look down at the stack of reporter's notebooks and red pens. Looks like not much has changed there.
The scene is a wooded area in Lawrence County, Marion Township, west of Liberty Baptist Church Road. Mr. Watterson is relating an oral history related to him by Van Renssalaer Sanders of the forgotten graveyard we were restoring that day. (If you are interested in Oliver Burnett and the Lost Creek Settlement, Justin Watterson has also done a fair amount of research and written his own article on the history.)
The intense feelings which accompany watching oneself at another time in one's life were only compounded by the fact the event I was reliving was in itself a remembrance of a time past.
In the video, Mr. Watterson instructs us, his students, to draw sketches of the three gravestones and write down notes before putting posts behind them.
Near the end of the clip, Mr. Watterson turns to the camera. It's as if he knows he's speaking directly to me watching this now.
“You need to remember your past, because that's how you learn about your future, and know where you're going. That's why history and social studies are so important,” he said.
After I finished watching it, I found my way to Justin Watterson's Twitter account. I told him who I was, and he immediately offered to put me in touch with his father.
On Thursday, I called the number. There he was; Mr. Watterson. We talked for about 15 minutes about the graveyard and our lives. I asked him if there was a time he watched himself from when he was younger. He told me about the time when he was growing up when Mitchell's late hometown hero astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom visited his classroom when he was still a fighter pilot. He told me he remembered it like it was yesterday.
History was always my favorite subject growing up. And, I've only grown to appreciate it more as I've gotten older. I have hopes and dreams and fears in 2019. I also did in 1993. So did the people in 1872. Realizing that people years ago, even people who were actually me, felt the same things as I do now helps me understand its importance.