Journalists on Twitter and other denizens of the twittersphere played many 'What-if' games this week. It's been a week of anniversaries: Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the 50th anniversary since JFK's assassination, the arrival of Mason and Dixon to Philadelphia.
Owners of rich imagination thought, "What is a better way to relive those moments than to commemorate them with tweets... describing those moments as if they were happening today?"
Imagine, if Twitter existed when President Lincoln was addressing the nation on November 19, 2013 rather than 1863.
So a Twitter version of the long-deceased president -- with a twitter handle @Mr_Lincoln -- live-tweeted, so to speak, the 200+ words, 10 sentences, in 140-character chunks...
My fellow citizens, I am nearly arrived to Washington after an emotional visit to Gettysburg. I was shown extraordinary hospitality.— Abraham Lincoln (@Mr_Lincoln) November 20, 2013
I would like to share with you the few remarks I gave, which I hope were appropriate to the occasion. I hope no one objects....— Abraham Lincoln (@Mr_Lincoln) November 20, 2013
And off... he went... I mean, tweeted, the @Mr_Lincoln, that is...
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a.new nation, conceived in liberty.....— Abraham Lincoln (@Mr_Lincoln) November 20, 2013
And today, NPR launched a Twitter account with a handle @todayin1963 to live-tweet last moments of John F. Kennedy's life.
Mrs. Kennedy's outfit of choice today is a pink suit with navy trim and a matching pillbox hat.— Today in 1963 (@todayin1963) November 22, 2013
The Kennedys and Vice Pres. Johnson head to a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where the president will give remarks.— Today in 1963 (@todayin1963) November 22, 2013
Kennedy's speech to Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce focuses on military preparedness: "We are still the keystone in the arch of freedom."— Today in 1963 (@todayin1963) November 22, 2013
It's hard to imagine what the day of November 22nd, 1963, would have looked like had Twitter existed back then. It surely would not have been limited to tweets from a few accounts.
Exits the Hotel Texas after the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, Fort Worth, Texas with Mrs. Kennedy pic.twitter.com/iXcrZEjzux— JFK_1963 (@JFK_1963) November 22, 2013
By definition, however, there is no such thing as alternative history, as David Shribman says. It is what it is. Human nature is such that we will continue to explore, but never agree upon, what-if scenarios.
Today, social media is a place where people are not only reliving that day but sharing and preserving common memories of the man who was larger than life, a role model, a profile in courage, even for people who never lived through that haunting day...
I was not born yet but, my mom was working at N.Marcus in Dallas when JFK was shot. #JFKmemories— J. Craig Hanzelka (@pvtchef66) November 22, 2013
Watching shows about JFK with my daughter @sjvinyl we are both crying, I wad 6 at the time he was shot and she was not born yet— Renee (@reniot57) November 22, 2013