Sunday, January 22, 2006

How quickly we forget.

I know it's out of fashion, but this week I tried to do some fact-checking. For an essay I'm finishing, I wanted to verify whether a woman named Ann Kennedy taught seventh grade history at Leroy Martin Junior High in Raleigh in 1968-69. I had it on information from a Raleigh attorney who told me a wonderful story related to the history of the statue of Judge Thomas Ruffin in Raleigh, which is the subject of my essay. I had no reason to doubt him, but I wanted a second source. I also wanted to know how to spell Ann(e).

Actually my search started over a year ago. I called Martin Middle School (as it is now known). Was told that they have no records and no idea. So this time around, I started with the Wake County School System. First I was told that I'd have to know her social security number. For information that was at one time common knowledge? Please. I didn't want her salary or her job evaluations. I just wanted to know what everybody knew in 1969, if it were true: that she taught seventh grade history. I was kicked up to human relations. A glimmer of light! This woman said she'd go look something up. It sounded hopeful, but I was disconnected. Three callbacks and every time I got put to the same voicemail of the wrong department. (I left a message, for what little it was worth.)

So I thought I'd try again with Martin Middle. A more creative phone-answering person said I should talk to the media center; said they could look it up in a yearbook. Yes! The media center person, though, said it wasn't so easy; no yearbooks that far back, and she might not be able to give me this "personnel" information. But she promised to look into it.

I was about ready to file a FOIA request when she called back to say oh yes, Ann (sic) Kennedy was much beloved; she taught here for many years. We have her picture right here on the wall.

Oh, yes, indeed.

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