This week I had a conversation with someone about CSX closing the rail line through O’Fallon and they said something that really got me thinking. During our talk I was told that I am doing important work, helping to document the history of O’Fallon, Shiloh, and the surrounding area. Honestly, that thought has weighed heavily on me.
When my partner and I started this venture, we didn’t do it to be historians. I needed work and decided to strike out and make my own way, while my partner (I think) is along for the ride to help and because he thought it could be a good time. It’s nice to have good friends… but I digress…
It’s really true though, we are documenting the region’s history as we go along. We document what events take place, milestones in the lives of residents, and even their passing in the obituaries. We are providing a written record for those that will come along after us to be able to look back and see what life was like in the here and now.
But it messed with my mind a bit to actually hear that was what I was doing.
The person I was speaking with said it was imporatnt to have a written record because the internet is etherial and can be altered. Our society has begun to use Facebook as our default news source, but that also makes it our default historical ledger. I agree that is a dangerous path to go down because, not only are we trusting our history to one corporation running a website, but we are also trusting that data won’t ever be altered. I’ve edited Facebook posts before and I’m sure you have as well. Nothing on the internet is locked in print on a page. Nothing on the internet is one-hundrend percent permanent, which it needs to be to stand up to the test of time.
My partner and I debated greatly when we were preparing to launch the O’Fallon Weekly as to wheter we’d do a print version or go online only. We decided there was a legitimacy to having a print version that you just don’t have by going online. Anyone can start a blog or a website. I think we all know deep down that the internet is great, but the written word will always carry some immeasurable power.
Which is why it was important to me to include an article in this week’s edition talking about the rail line, its history, and how the railroad shaped O’Fallon. It was important to take a moment and reflect on what exactly took place on August 7, 2015. It wasn’t just the closure of a rail line. It was the closure of the rail line that is responsible for the existence of the town itself. It’s a moment that deserves some brief reflection.
Part of what I love about publishing the O’Fallon Weekly is the support and assistance I receive from the community. I can’t tell you how many emails and messages I receive providing me with items to include in the paper. And now that I’ve been so bluntly informed that we’re doing the work of the town historians, I have to point out that you are all also helping write the history of O’Fallon and Shiloh.
Every time you send me a photo, press release, or story, you’re adding a part to the area’s history. It’s a really big thing to process when you take a moment to stop and consider it.
Personally, I am choosing not to dwell on it and to just keep doing what I’ve been doing. That’s an awful lot of pressure and I think if I give it too much more thought, my production will come to a grinding halt. After all, we really shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously…