I have been working with the folks at KETC - St Louis' Public TV Station - for several months now. Our work has been to find out what we have to do to transcend broadcast and also become an important part of the life of the City. Could we serve the public at a deeper level and then grow the bond ever stronger between us and the public?
As my regular readers know we have been using the upcoming showing of Ken Burns new documentary on the War to learn how we might provide a Trusted Space that will bring in a community. As you know we have been using a host of tools - Blogging, Facebook, Live Webcasts etc.
Is it working? Are we making a difference? Can we see now where we are going? I think so. Here and in the follow on is an interview with Jack Galmiche, the President. KETC are on their way - what a feeling!
At the heart of where we are now is that we are going to use the immense amount of material that we have received on people's memories of the war both in the field and on the home front to create a permanent virtual memorial to St Louis War dead. We plan to make this an open memorial where - once we have done the work of setting the frame and seeding it with what we have - then families and friends can fill it out further.
To this end we are copying what Veterans Affairs have done so well in Canada - we are asking the schools in St Louis to ask their kids to adopt a vet. In Canada, the National Virtual Memorial was created by teens and funded by VAC. Many of these "Kids" are now global leaders in social software development such as the guys at silverorange and my good friend and partner Jevon MacDonald.
This is what it felt like when 5,000 kids marched onto the filed of battle at Vimy Ridge this spring
After a picnic on the grass we wandered down to the main site behind the monument facing back up to the statue of a young Canada mourning her dead. It was about 2pm then. At close to 3 5,000 young Canadian came down the ridge from the south side. 5,000 people is a lot. We got a sense of the loss for the 3 days of the battle when 3,598 men lost their lives. We could imagine in looking at the 5,000, what 3,598 looked like.
Their energy was electric and I felt that these 5,000 would reverberate back into their own generation. Each would surely have 20 friends who were watching back home. I bet most will find a way to return in later life - maybe with their children.
When they had settled into the green patch in the centre the band and the soldiers arrived. The music throughout was special. A mix of pipe and brass band. I hope that there will be a recording.
The arrival of the key dignitaries took a long time - all the protocol etc. But I have to say all of them were wonderful. M Villepin opened with an exceptionally gracious speech of gratitude. Mr Harper was at his very best. His speech was without the shred of politics and was very moving. Very moving. The Queen of course was the star. Dressed in white - she shone like a pearl.
The highpoint for all of us was then the music. The lone (female) bugler. The lone virtuoso violinist. Then the most moving of all.
The band began to sing - quietly. Who had heard a band sing? The song was all about a longing for home. Then the kids in the Charlottetown choir picked up the words with the band now playing softly, then the soloist and finally all the choir and all the band. As the song reached its climax, four jets flew low over us all. We were all stunned. All around me the crowd was weeping. It was the most incredible mass experience that I have ever been part off.
What a day!
I wonder what will happen in St Louis as the generations come together?
(From the Monroe County Clarion) From boots to bed frames, generals to
munitions workers, World War II came home to the St. Louis area. Before
its stories fade from memory, veterans and their families are flooding
KETC-TV (Channel 9) with information, letters and memories.
Creation of the project "Your Stories: St. Louis Remembers World War II" began this spring. It anticipates Ken Burns' 15-1/2-hour epic documentary, "The War," which will be broadcast on PBS affiliate stations during a two-week span beginning Sept. 23.
Jack Galmiche, president and chief executive officer of KETC, said the project gained momentum over time. The value of finding a secure repository for memories has bolstered its appeal.
"We have received thousands of pages of material and things," he said. "People are telling us they (otherwise) don't know what to do with them other than throw them away."
Rather than a concrete monument, this war memorial will be digital, with accumulated material available to anyone at any time. Some excerpts already appear online on the station's interactive Web site ketc.org/yourstories. Stories and memories also can be shared at the site.
Galmiche said he is surprised by how many World War II veterans, previously silent, have recounted stories.
"They really don't talk about their memories," he said. "All these people are in their 80s, 90s, at a point in time that they have not shared them before. They realize they may go to their grave with that. We provide a safe, trusted place for them."
The station invites the sharing through postal mail and e-mail, on the KETC Web site and two Internet sites, as well as in person by appointment at the station or by inviting volunteers to record them.
Last month, historian-storyteller Ken Burns discussed the documentary with 700 people in person, some of whom wore original military uniforms, and simultaneously on the station's first webcast. Through an existing long-term agreement, the Missouri Historical Society also will be a repository for what KETC gathers.
A unique aspect of the story gathering involves multiple generations.
"Kids interview their grandfathers," Galmiche said. "Kids can do what they do best: operate a video camera and ask questions to capture the project."
Galmiche's father served in the U.S. Navy.
"Luckily my father survived the war," he says simply.
Unfortunately, memory difficulties now keep his father from communicating about current events, but Galmiche has used some techniques recommending for releasing memories.
"Unlike many others, he actually talked about his time in the war," Galmiche said. "I've gathered the pictures. Sometimes showing them to him triggers memories."
Of course, families of people who served in that war hold their own memories. He calls some of them "terrible, gripping experiences."
Women were not in the front lines to fight the enemy with guns. However, many served as well, including a woman in the Marines who spoke about her work in hospitals.
"Many more women talk about the experiences of their fathers and brothers," Galmiche said.
Your Stories will accept information through Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Galmiche wants the station to continue to be open to memories as long as possible.
"If each of those 5,000 people who perished would be assigned to a student, the student could research the person through the records center here and any stories we have, then create an individual online memorial," he envisions.
New technology provides long-range possibilities.
KETC's YouTube and Facebook channels now link those who want to leave memories to others interested in finding them or chatting with those interested in them. Eventually, he points out, others can oversee this information.
Just one of many hours of presentations of the local material includes a one-hour presentation, "In Honor of St. Louis' Fallen 1941-45." It scrolls the names of more than 5,000 local people who died in the war, never gathered in one place before. With photos and historical radio excepts from that time, he calls the show "incredibly powerful." It will be shown at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, and during the day Nov. 11.
Program breaks have offered another opportunity for local programming. By the time "The War" airs, 50 short vignettes featuring local World War II veterans and those who shared the homefront locally during those years will have aired.
"Living St. Louis" also continues its feature stories about war memories.
Airing this coming week, Ruth Ezell interviews Dr. James E. Lewis of St. Louis at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20. The 1942 graduate of Harvard Medical School aided soldiers in the Normandy Theater. On Monday, Aug. 27, Anne-Marie Berger goes to the Elks Club in Affton to interview 12 local survivors of the Battle of the Bulge.
In the meantime, Galmiche urges people to continue sharing their stories. The mailing address is: Your Stories, KETC, 3655 Olive St., St. Louis Mo. 63108.
At no charge, Channel 9 also will provide a speaker to talk about Your Stories to a club, business or religious institution, retirement community or veterans' group. This can be arranged by calling Terri Gates at (314) 512-9036. Volunteers also will be trained to provide this service.