One day in early 2000, my wife returned from her job at Palmetto High School in Miami raving about an appearance earlier that day in the school library. A man named Kim Peek had demonstrated his astonishing memory for a group of students.
My wife's message that day was simple: "You have got to see this to believe it. You should do a story on this guy!" Correspondent Kerry Sanders and I pitched the story (I was Kerry's producer at the time). We did the story and it remains the most memorable profile either of us ever reported and produced.
|VIDEO: Inside the mind of Kim Peek|
Kim's appearance in Miami was one of hundreds that he made, all in the company of and arranged by his father Fran Peek (at no charge, except to cover expenses). They crisscrossed the country to celebrate Fran's message that was personified by his son: "We are all unique."
His son Kim could not tie his own shoes or shave. But if you threw a date at Kim – say May 17, 1951 – he could tell you it was a Thursday (I had to look it up). He could also tell you something about what happened that day, because he read almanacs – and he remembered almost every word.
He was called an "autistic savant" by many; but the riddle of his amazing memory was never really solved. Was his stupefying recall tied to any of his disabilities? We all have memories, but how was he able to plow through a mountain of data – and then retain virtually all of it?
Kim's passing is bittersweet. His father, now in his 80s, worried over who would take care of Kim when Fran was no longer there. While mourning Kim, Fran can take some comfort knowing Kim will not be alone. I suspect his spirit, having devoured every scrap of knowledge he could find on earth, is already streaking through space. Must be lots more to learn out there.