After being political two days in a row, and getting so serious yesterday, I decided to back off a bit for the weekend. Last week, a bunch of us on The Daily Kitten’s Chat Room got to talking about where we were during pivotal events in recent history. I admittedly went overboard (and I cut out quite a bit before posting, even!), but I thought I would repost recent history through my eyes, along with a few additions that come as a perq of having one’s own blog. Someday, I may even go into even more detail, but again, they are Tales for Another Day!
JFK Assassination: I don’t remember–too busy floating about in my mother’s womb (I was born 3 mos. later). Interesting side note, though–my uncle was living in Manhattan in the early 60′s with a successful career as an award-winning architect (which he later abandoned to travel the world playing piano). He remembered vividly seeing bumper stickers everywhere that read “Eliminate the KKK: Jack, Bobby, and Teddy.” Those bumper stickers disappeared very suddenly after November 1963.
Malcolm X: busy being 11 mos.
MLK/RFK: busy being 4.
Apollo 11 Landing: THAT I remember! I was 5 1/2, and since it was summer and there was no school, we kids were allowed to stay up late to see Neil Armstrong take his first step. We had our color console set in the living room, but since the video from the moon was black and white anyway, Dad set up in my bedroom the little b/w portable set we had bought for our camping trip the month before. I remember it was about 10:30 at night when Armstrong finally appeared–two hours past my bedtime. I was sleepy, but aware that this was important, and I have never forgotten it.
Elvis’ death: For me, it was “Yeah, he died, in an embarrassing manner, but that was my mom’s music–big deal.” Turned out it WAS a big deal. Little did I know.
The overthrow of the Shah: This affected our community greatly. The US Navy’s Supply Corps School is in my hometown of Athens, GA (for a brief time longer; they are handing it over to UGa to create a medical school in 2010), and we had a lot of Navy families relocated there after being very hurriedly removed from Iran. There were also a lot of Iranian refugees who came to our town, including one family that had a son who became my hubby’s best friend in college. Too many stories about that time to post all at once.
The murder of John Lennon: I didn’t even like the Beatles until I got into high school. I was a sophomore when Lennon got shot, but what got everyone talking was the fact that the shooter (Mark David Chapman) was a friend of the older brother of one of my classmates, and had been a frequent houseguest when my classmate lived in Atlanta. My friend was freaked–he never thought Chapman was the type to do something like that.
The Reagan Shooting: I will always remember that day as if it were yesterday. My favorite class that year was 11th grade American History, because of the irreverent way my teacher, Mr. Bosquet, presented the material (I have always tried to teach like he did, because the irreverence made routine stuff memorable). The lecture that day had been on the election of 1840–Gen. William Henry Harrison had gained fame as an Indian fighter and the enmity of one particular shaman, who, according to Mr. B, had placed a curse on Harrison. The shaman said Harrison would die in office, and so would every other president elected in a year ending in “0.” If you know your American History, you know that Gen. Harrison had the shortest term of any president, dying of pneumonia contracted on a cold and rainy Inauguration Day 31 days after taking office. Lincoln, of course, was elected in 1860; Garfield in 1880; McKinley in 1900; Harding in 1920; F.D. Roosevelt in 1940; and Kennedy in 1960–all died in office (only Harding and Roosevelt of natural causes).
That very afternoon, I came home to learn of the attempt on President Reagan’s life. There wasn’t an empty seat in Mr. Bosquet’s classroom the next day–in fact, no one was even tardy: we ALL wanted to know what he had to say about the shooting of (as he pronounced it) “Ronnie Ray-gun.” He came in and said simply “Guess the ol’ shaman is losing his touch.”
The Challenger Disaster: I was in the Air Force’s Intel School at what used to be Lowry AFB outside of Denver when this happened. That week was our final exam–a 5-day war game we had to successfully run. We were in a building that was so secure that broadcast signals could neither enter nor leave the building, save the lobby, which was about the size of a 2-seater public restroom. The war game scenario took place in Communist Yugoslavia, and throughout the exercise we would get updated “intel” unexpectedly that would affect the battle plans we would recommend to the brass. Suddenly, someone burst into the room and said “The Shuttle’s blown up!” Our first reaction? “OK, let’s see how that affects what’s going on in Ljubljana.” It took us a good 10 minutes to realize that this was real-world stuff going on, then everyone abandoned the game and crowded into the lobby to see the only TV–a 13″ portable on the guard’s desk. There must have been at least 100 people jammed into that lobby, but no one jostled or complained.
The Marcos Exile: I was stationed on Hickam AFB when former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda (she of the shoes) and their entourage fled Manila and stayed at Hickam for a month back in February, 1986. Apparently, they could own half the planet, but couldn’t buy a decent set of luggage because all the news footage showed everyone hauling stuff packed in Pampers boxes out of the military cargo plane.
All of us enlisted barracks-rats were upset because the large-screen TV’s in the Enlisted Mess were appropriated for use by the Marcos’ and because off-base pizza parlors were not permitted to deliver there due to heightened security that did not allow people without a military ID on base. Much as we grumbled, though, we all knew that the folks living in Officers’ Country were having it worse–much worse. Those living near the home where the Marcos’ stayed were not even allowed to be on the other side of the street from their own homes! Needless to say, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the Marcos’ got their own private residence a month later.
9/11: The hardest day teaching I ever had. I taught 2nd grade in Florida at a Christian School that ranged from K3-8th. My own children were in 8th, 4th, and Kindergarten. I was on break when I was told about the plane crashing into the WTC, and thought about the B-25 crash into the Empire State Building in 1945. I imagined this Cessna with an inexperienced pilot. It turned out the whole Middle School was watching in the history classroom. I went more as an opportunity to spend a few minutes with my oldest–I still didn’t fathom the enormity of what was happening until I saw it on TV. There were no classes for the MS that day–they just watched. We elementary teachers, though, were told not to let the kids know what happened. About 1/4 of my class got picked up by anxious parents before lunch–enough to make the rest suspicious, but not so suspicious that a quick, flip, non-informative reply couldn’t satisfy them. Pretending to act normal on the most abnormal day of my life was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I pulled it off.
All the rest of that week, I made it a point to step outside as often as possible to view the sky and observe the absence of aircraft. My house in Clearwater, FL was underneath the approach of the small municipal airport about a mile away, and was also under the flight paths to/from Tampa’s, Orlando’s, and Miami’s airports and MacDill AFB. The sky was always lousy with contrails and the sounds of freedom and commerce. To see only clouds and hear only birds was eerie. I never wanted to forget that.
The Columbia disaster: We had plans that day, but I don’t remember what–perhaps it was an afternoon session swim meet. I seem to recall that it was Gasparilla weekend in Tampa–there was always a meet then. Anyway, I was at home preparing while Hubby went to gas up his truck. He came back enraged. He had gone to the Chevron Station not too far away–it always had the cheapest gas in the area. He had his radio on while filling up and heard the news. He went inside the station to ask about some STP or something like that, and the man of middle-eastern descent who either owned or ran the station (he was someone in charge) asked Hubby how he was today. Hubby replied “Not good; I just heard the Columbia blew up on re-entry.” The SOB behind the counter said nothing, but GRINNED from ear to ear! Hubby turned around and left, because he knew if he stayed one second longer, he’d be going to jail–at the very least on assault charges. We never went to that station again, and rarely go to Chevrons at all.
So tell me, where were you? What sticks out in your mind about the events that have shaped our lives and our world? Also, how do you like the silhouette photo of Linus and the dear, departed Lucy (his sister) for my new banner? I’d like to know.