Lauren and I recently finished listening to the podcast that swept the nation last fall, Serial. In it, the host interviews various individuals associated with a murder that occurred on January 13, 1999 in Baltimore. Adnan Seyd was found guilty of the murder and imprisoned, but many believe he either was innocent or, at the very least, there wasn’t enough evidence to have indicted him. If Seyd really was innocent, then it would be very difficult for him to remember tiny details about a date in the past that to him previously had no significance. Sure, he and his friends and alleged accomplice were trying to remember the details of that day just a few months later, but throughout the podcast they are repeatedly questioned about the details of that date that had occurred over 15 years in the past. What details could they possibly remember?
That got me to wondering. Could I possibly piece together the details of where I was on January 13, 1999? It’s going to take a lot of devotion, a lot of investigating, and perhaps a few interviews, but I pledge to get to the bottom of this!
Let’s start with what we definitely know.
- It was a Wednesday.
- I lived on a farm near Carpenter, South Dakota with my parents, brother, and sister.
- I was a sophomore at Willow Lake High School.
- School was held from 8:20am to 3:32pm.
- I was a member of the basketball team, and basketball was in season.
- Basketball practices were held every non-gameday weekday after school from 3:30 to 6:00, sometimes later.
Okay, great start. The basics are out of the way. What else can I surmise?
- The second semester probably had just started the previous week, so school was only recently back in session after Christmas break.
- I undoubtedly was at school, unless of course it was cancelled due to snow, a distinct possibility. However, a quick online search shows a weather report for Clark, SD as having 0.0″ of precipitation that day, albeit a high temp of 5º F. I think we can safely conclude that school was in session.
- I know that over Christmas break I had fully recovered from my broken leg sustained the previous September, so I was freshly out of a cast. Our family Christmas photos from Thanksgiving Day 1998 seem to support my theory that I was well on my way to recovery and would have been back to playing basketball on January 13, 1999.
- Wednesdays were reserved for church activities throughout the state, so while there may have been basketball practice, there definitely would not have been a basketball game.
- I was not involved in any after-school church activities that year. Confirmation class ended after 8th grade.
- It would be reasonable to assume that I drove to school with Jordan and Alex in tow, but they likely would have ridden the school bus home while I stayed for basketball practice under head coach Bryon Noem. (Judd Fryslie was coach junior year and Paul Kelley senior year.)
- Basketball would have ended around 6:00pm; I would have gotten home no later than 6:30.
- I typically woke up around 6:30am on school days and went to bed no later than 10:45pm.
- I was in band and chorus, and all throughout my time in school they were 5th period. Mon/Wed/Fri was band, Tues/Thu was chorus. We went right up to the lunch bell at 12:36, then had a very small window of 20 minutes to eat lunch before the next bell at 12:56. Hardly seems fair!
Some plain guesses here, but let’s lay out my day so far.
- 6:30am – Wake up. Eat breakfast.
- 7:45am – Drive to school with Jordan and Alex in bitter cold.
- 8:05am – Arrive to school 15 minutes before first period.
- 8:20am – School begins.
- 12:36pm – Band
- 12:40pm – Lunch
- 12:56pm – Sixth period begins.
- 3:32pm – School ends, basketball practice begins.
- 6:00pm – Basketball practice ends, I drive home.
- 6:30pm – I arrive home. Dinner is served.
- 7:00pm – I likely spend the rest of the night in my bedroom.
- 10:45pm – I am asleep.
Some minor research and a whole lot of thinking has gotten me this far. Can I confirm any of this? What other sources could I check?
- I had no cell phone then, so there are no phone records to trace.
- We had a landline phone at home, though it would have been atypical for me to have made a phone call, nor do I suspect the records are easily accessible, if at all.
- We had the internet at home and school, and I had an e-mail account. Going back through my old Yahoo e-mail account, there are no e-mails saved prior to September 1999, neither in my inbox or the Sent folder. Nor do any of the messages in my Yahoo inbox contain any mention of the happenings of January 13, 1999.
- If I didn’t sign up for my own Yahoo account until the late summer, then it’s very likely I was still using firstname.lastname@example.org, an account shared by me, Brandon Hanson, Jesse Van Heukelom, and Guy LaMont. We used it mostly to sign up for junk, because e-mail and the internet were pretty new and that’s just what you did. Several attempts to log in were unsuccessful; I have no clue what that password would have been, or if the account is even active.
- I don’t have the high school yearbook handy, but it’s very unlikely that would have included any sort of clues as to what happened that day unless there was a sporting event, which there was almost certainly not.
- I have quite a few photos from 1999 available to me, many of them time-stamped, and many of them available to me right now on my computer. Unfortunately, it becomes clear while browsing the photos that I didn’t purchase my camera until the summer of 99. All of the photos with time-stamps are dated August 25 and beyond.
- This photo intrigues me. It is from 1999, but without being able to see the back of it, I can’t dial in on a particular date or time. It was obviously taken at school, during a Mr. Kelley class. There isn’t much else I can gather, though. Would it have been taken in the winter? Was it even from the right school year? Most people shown are in t-shirts, which doesn’t seem very wintry. There is a calendar in the far distance, but it is impossible to read. Someone has a textbook on their desk behind me, but it is mostly cut off. Nope, until I can find the actual copy and check the back, this isn’t of much use.
Okay, we’re not exactly getting anywhere here. Maybe the national news will help jog my memory.
- On January 13, 1999, Michael Jordan announced his second of three retirements from the NBA. “Baby One More Time” reached #1 on the pop charts. You’ve Got Mail was tops at the box office. Tom Brokaw’s book was a top-seller, especially locally. But those tidbits do nothing for me.
- The national TV schedule for Wednesdays in the 1998-99 season were pretty lame. The only show I conceivably would have watched would have been Whose Line Is It Anyway.
- Ah, now here’s something useful! Days earlier, on January 10, the Minnesota Vikings had defeated the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the NFL Playoffs, 41-21. That I do remember, vaguely. And I definitely remember the following Sunday when the Falcons beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. (Sorry to bring that back up!) So during that week, there must have been a lot of optimism in the community. Many Vikings fans surely were wearing their Randy Moss jerseys to school that week. I, however, was strictly a Chargers fan at that point in time, and they did not qualify for the playoffs. Nor does this give me any idea of any specifics of my whereabouts that day.
This is all the data I have at my fingertips from my work laptop. Any further investigation will have to be done the dirty way… by hand.