Sunday, November 02, 2008

Of phantom snowstorms and Bosnian snipers

This perfectly innocent memory correction by James Fallows inevitably recalls a more famous lapse:
I mentioned that the only time I missed voting in a presidential election was eight years ago, when "an early blizzard and ice storm" kept the small airplane I was flying grounded for four days in Duluth, Minnesota.

Someone who was actually in Duluth that day reminded me that there was no blizzard on November 7. Fair point! The historical weather records for election day show frigid rain. But even without the (imagined in retrospect) snow on the ground, the clouds were low and full of the perfect ingredients for a small-airplane crash: sub-freezing temperatures and "supercooled droplets," which together make for "airframe icing" and bring airplanes to the ground.
If freezing rain could harden into a blizzard in Fallows' memory banks, I guess an evasive maneuver or two in that plane carrying Hillary Clinton to Bosnia in 1996 could mind-morph into ducking sniper fire when she landed. Of course, Clinton did keep repeating the tale long after it had first been questioned. Could the false memory have become that real to her?

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