#58 Think back.

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Today's Maggie Mason idea:

"Tell us what you were doing during the major historical events of your lifetime. Here's a brief timeline of U.S. history to jog your memory. What were your thoughts when you first heard the news?"

  • President Kennedy assassinated.

  • The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.>

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated.

  • Robert Kennedy assassinated.

  • Man walks on the moon.

  • President Nixon resigns.

I'm skipping those, for the obvious reason--I wasn't alive when they happened.

  • President Reagan shot: This was in 1981, so while I was alive, I wasn't old enough to remember it.

  • Challenger explodes: This is my first clear political memory. It happened in 1986, when I was in first grade. I remember watching some coverage of it on a TV in our classroom (and this was back in the day when having a TV in your classroom was a big deal, especially if it wasn't tuned to "Reading Rainbow." I don't clearly remember my exact thoughts, but do remember that there was general sadness in particular because a teacher, Sharon McAuliffe, died in the explosion.

  • Berlin Wall falls: This I remember much more clearly--it was another TV-in-class occasion. It happened in 1989, so I was 10 and I think in 4th grade. My most clear memory, however, is of the song "Winds of Change" by the hair band Scorpions, which was released the next year. Everyone would get very kiddie-serious when that song came on and pretend to be thinking about the wall.

  • Persian Gulf war: This was 5th grade, and I mainly remember everybody in my town hanging flags all over their stuff. And lots of what I now see as racist jokes, but didn't quite identify as such at the time. I don't remember being scared by the war, or even particularly interested in it.

  • Rodney King riots: This is where I start getting political, at least a little bit. I'm in 6th grade, I'm arguing with my classroom teacher about abortion (how completely inappropriate is that?) and I'm starting to have the guts to call people on their racist tripe, of which there is a lot. I think this is about the time I started getting into political arguments at home, too. As far as the riots themselves go, though, it was really removed for me. I was a kid, I knew NO people of color, and it all seemed...vague. Like something I'd see in a movie.

  • Waco, Texas standoff: This happened in 1993, when I was in 8th grade, but I don't remember it at all. It just flew under my radar, I guess.

  • Oklahoma City bombing: The was '95, my sophomore year in high school. My clearest memory is of that photograph of the fire fighter holding the baby that was all over the newspapers. It seemed like that picture was everywhere for months. Honestly, though, I was living pretty far inside my own head at this point and wasn't much on paying attention to what was going on around me.

  • Presidential election recount: Wow, big jump. This happened in 2000-2001, during my last year of college. I remember this VERY clearly. First, we had an election results party that included a drinking game wherein you took a shot of tequila every time a state went to Bush and a shot of Jack Daniels every time one went to Gore. Simon and I went to bed thinking that Gore had won and woke up and found out he hadn't. And then it dragged on and on and on. I supported Gore in the recount, and really thought and still think that Bush's victory was ill-gotten, but what was more important to me then and now was that it was even close, and that the Democrats couldn't find someone more sympathetic than Gore to put up. I also remember discussing this a lot in class, particularly with my favorite professor, who is Iranian and has some pretty strong feelings about sham elections.

  • 9/11 attacks: This happened my first year out of college. It's the weirdest thing. I never ever turned my TV on when getting ready for work at that time--I always listened to music. Yet, for some reason, I turned my TV on that morning, just in time to see the second tower fall. I called Mark and woke him up to make him turn on his TV to watch it. Then I went to work, and everyone in the office spent all day trying to get in touch with friends in New York. My boss finally sent everyone home in the early afternoon. At the time, I was in no way concerned about the greater implications of the attacks--I just wanted to know my friend Mychy, who was working at the Fed not far from the towers, was OK.

  • Iraq war: Too recent to look back with nostalgia of any sort--all I've got is rage. Lots of protests, including an amazing one in Portland that really made me feel like I was actually part of something. A feeling that no matter what we did, it was going to happen anyway, and it was going to be bad. Had no idea how bad, thought.

  • Columbia explodes: Honestly, this didn't register too much for me. As an adult, I am very very suspicious of the space program. I simply don't think it's a good use of time or money. Which isn't to say I don't feel badly for the astronauts who were killed on the Columbia, but this didn't inspire a huge mourning or anything.

  • Hurricane Katrina: This was really, really awful. Really personal, and close to home. Austin was full of refugees, survivors, and they needed a lot of help. More than any other "historical event," Katrina made the world feel small and dangerous. I'm still not over it.

  • Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his friend in the face: This was just funny. Still is, actually.


Quick note - the school teacher in the Challenger disaster was Christa, not Sharon McAuliffe. She grew up in my town and the library building was rededicated in her honor. Such a shame!

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