The Memory Project
Off the top of my head, natural (Johnny Ketchum)

TMP: Twelve Seconds
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The Wright Brothers' first flight lasted twelve seconds, a fact I learned at the National Air & Space Museum. It sticks with me, when so other facts fail to, because it strikes me as about the same length of time that one can maintain excitement/wonder at flight.

Actually, I was probably excited for most of my first flight, on an Eastern jet from Baltimore to Atlanta, when I was 10 or 11. This was an annual trip, sometimes twice-yearly, and we usually drove, which took 11.5 hours. So I was pretty darn excited to do it in under two hours.

People dressed for flying then. Well, we did. I wore a hand-me-down dress of my sister's, a blue/orange-striped shift with matching scarf. I thought I was elegant, although given the fact that I was porkier than my sister, I probably looked like twenty pounds of sausage stuffed in a 10-pound blue/orange-striped casing. I think metal detectors had been installed by then, but security was pretty low-key. Do you realize that there's a whole generation growing up that will never know what it's like to come off a plane and see a friendly, waiting face? It's just not the same, that scrum outside security.

Another thing about flying: I was raised to believe that it was almost criminal to order food and drink in the airport. The prices! The waste! I was 30, en route to the Kentucky Derby with good friends, when someone suggested we have a beer in the airport bar. "Really? That's allowed?"

What was your first flight? Was it special, exciting? Do you remember what you wore and where you went? Is anyone ever blase about that first take-off?

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