Sometimes the most wrenching moments when we travel are ones we don’t appreciate at the time. Only much later do we understand what we saw. Or didn’t see.

My wife Betsy and I just had such an experience. We drove to Florida and back over Christmas. We learned many things about the south. We saw billboards promoting ancient battlefields where the fate of the nation was decided. We saw, sitting empty in a lot somewhere, a Trump/Pence bus so brightly painted it might have made the difference in Georgia all by itself. [I don’t get the reference.]

But it’s what we didn’t see that haunts us now. We didn’t see Bowling Green, Kentucky. Oh, there was an exit ramp off I-65, midway between Louisville and Nashville, and a sign pointing somewhere west. But we did not actually see Bowling Green. Was it even there? You know how hard and empty the land gets when winter sets in and snow dusts the firs? That’s what I remember. There was barely a there there.

“I thought Bowling Green was in Ohio,” I said.

“Isn’t there a college there?” said Betsy.

“So it’s in Kentucky,” I said.

“There might be two,” said Betsy.

“I wonder,” I said.

All this is by way of conveying the havoc wreaked by the Bowling Green Massacre, which we didn’t know had happened in this very place because we didn’t know there’d been a Bowling Green Massacre. Nothing survives of it. Where ruins must have smoked and smoldered today there is only the wind in the pines of frozen fields. There is no monument, no shrine. No national, or even a state park. And, along the shoulder of I-65 surging south to Nashville and north to Louisville, still mention of the National Corvette Museum but not a whisper of the evil that once slouched here to slurp its fill. [I get what you’re doing but I’m not crazy about this approach. Given this all stems from Kellyanne Conway trying to convince the public this was real, I don’t think this kind of subtle humor is effective.]

Memory has turned its back.

Most telling of all—southerners, not even in Kentucky, never speak of the Bowling Green Massacre. We never once heard it come up. Some catastrophes traumatize survivors for generations to come, and clearly the Bowling Green Massacre is something the region is not even close to coming to grips with. I met shopkeepers, gas station attendants, and night clerks along the way and I would have asked them—What happened that night in Bowling Green? (Or was it day?)—to see if they could muster a response. I’d have asked—What did Hillary have to do with it?—because in the south Hillary is behind everything [Not sure that’s fair.] and the understanding that’s so gets strangers talking like old friends. But I was too ignorant to ask these questions. I had never been told about the Bowling Green Massacre in school. Were you?

Fortunately, the nation was set straight last week by presidential aide Kellyanne Conway, who reminded MSNBC’s Chris Matthews of the Iraqi “masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre.” This recollection has been greeted with scorn by some people who can’t handle the alternative truth, but I’m not one of them. Neither is Stephen Colbert. He said, “I think we all remember where we weren’t when we didn’t hear that nothing had happened. . . . I demand that the media not release the reports they did not do on the attacks that did not occur. And I will not rest until they don’t!”

Unlike Colbert, I was actually passing by Bowling Green when I didn’t hear about what didn’t happen. Weeks later, it was overwhelming.