Monday, March 30, 2009

Where Were You When . . . ?

Certain dates stick out in my mind. Aside from the obvious choices which hold only a personal significance, I can very clearly picture exactly where I was when several key events occurred in American history. See if you can remember where you were when . . .

The Iran Hostage Crisis ended- January 20, 1981
Maybe it's not fair to ask you to remember where you were for this event because you may not have even been a teenager yet. I know I wasn't; it occurred on my tenth birthday which is probably a lot of the reason I remember it. Yes, Inauguration Day is always on my birthday, so it's pretty easy to figure out what I do on my birthday every four years. In 1981, I do clearly remember watching Ronald Reagan's inauguration on television with a group of my peers, and soon after Reagan officially became president it was announced that the hostages had been released. The only odd thing is that I associate the color red with this memory. For some reason, I recall sitting in a green or orange plastic school chair, but in a room with red carpet and walls. That part may not be accurate, though, because my elementary school definitely did not have any red walls. Maybe some of my fifth grade pals can help me out with this. I also remember January 20, 1981 because my cousin Craig finished his service with the U.S. Navy on this day. I really like Craig, except when he had a large, curly, red afro in the early 1970s. His hair scared me so much then that I used to hide from him.

Ronald Reagan was shot.- March 30, 1981

On March 30, 1981, my grandmother picked me up from my elementary school at the end of the day. As usual, she and I flipped on her rabbit ear television set when we got to her house about 3pm. Instead of "Guiding Light" that was usually on at 3pm (Yes, I watched soap operas with my grandmother. Maybe that's how I got so screwed up.), Reagan's attempted assassination was all over the news. I can still replay the video loop in my head that was shown repeatedly of Reagan and James Brady being shot by John Hinckley, Jr. (Yes, I know that I have a rather bizarre visual memory. My husband not-so-kindly refers to me as a "freak" when I can pull up very specific visual images in my mind.) Something about Reagan's attempted assassination when I was ten years old must have stuck with me, though, because I wrote an entire high school research paper about how John Hinckley, Jr. was inspired to shoot Reagan after he read J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

The space shuttle Challenger exploded.- January 28, 1986

I was in Mrs. Robertson's ninth grade Civics/ Economics class. Now I'm really interested in government and politics (Heck, I even majored in Political Science in college.), but there was nothing interesting about this class. All we did every day was read the textbook and answer the questions. The only entertainment came when someone interesting was in In-School Suspension which connected to Mrs. Robertson's class. My guess is that our navy-blue-haired teacher agreed to let a bunch of freshmen watch the Challenger launch because she preferred it over having to actually attempt to teach that day. Our group was kind of paying attention when she wheeled a tv into the class, and the space shuttle launch began. But, before we knew it, the Challenger exploded and our class got very, very quiet. Needless to say, the mood of our class changed dramatically that day.

September 11, 2001

I was teaching fifth grade at the same school where I attended elementary school. A bit after 9 o'clock that morning, one of the media assistants came by my room to tell me that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. She added that the school principal had asked the staff to not say anything to the students. Needless to say, the news that morning grew grimmer as more and more information came to light. If you can imagine, I was trying to lead a class of thirty active fifth graders while pretending that absolutely nothing was wrong. To make it worse, parents kept sporadically showing up to withdraw their children from school. As I told my class, there must have been a lot of doctor and dentist appointments that day. The hardest part was trying to keep it together personally. I was five months pregnant with my second child and very worried about what might occur before I could pick up my first child from daycare at the end of the day. To make the day truly horrifying, though, my dad was scheduled to fly out of Boston that morning, and a close friend since high school lived in NYC. Thankfully, my saintly teacher's assistant, seeing that I was an emotional wreck, took over the class for a bit so I could try to track down my father and my friend. My dad never made it to the airport that day. The hijackings and plane crashes occurred as he was driving, so he didn't turn in his rental car and kept driving along back roads well off of I-95 until he finally made it home. My friend in NYC was fine, shaken, but thankfully okay.

What days and times of your life do you remember very clearly? Where were you for these key events in American history?

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