Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where Were You When . . . ?

Today is November 22. You have to be of a certain age for that particular date to have any resonance. There is an entire generation that can stop and immediately tell you where they were when they heard that President Kennedy was shot. For today, on Thursday November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, the 35th President of the United States was assassinated. My mother used to tell me the story of how she was bowling (she was in a league - Christian Mothers Bowling League) and she received a call from my brother who was home sick from school. My mother had them make an announcement over the PA at the alley and everyone went home. Home is where everyone sat the entire weekend watching the coverage, which is why even more people can tell you where they were when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, as they watched it happen right in front of them.

I used to say that my generation did not have this sort of seminal event to bring us together. September 11 changed all that, of course. Being a history nerd however, I can still tell you where I was when the "major events" of my lifetime took place. One of the first events that I remember took place 10 years after the tragedy in Dallas, the resignation of Richard Nixon. My family was on vacation and my parents called me in from the beach to watch Nixon announce his resignation, cautioning, "You may never see this again." Of course, we came close recently.

In the 1980s, my history antennae really starting tuning in. I remember coming home from school on Monday March 30, 1981 and my mother telling me that something had just happened in Washington, DC. Initial reports (remember this all predates the unending stream of 24-hour news) had several injured but President Reagan, who was leaving the Washington Hilton, unharmed. Then someone handed ABC's Frank Reynolds a slip of paper, to which he responds, "My God, The President Has Been Shot!" I remember clearly chiding Reynolds to pull it together and show a little Cronkite backbone, the way Walter did in 1963. Later that year, Anwar Sadat was assassinated in Cairo, robbing the world stage of one of the signers of the Camp David Accords, one of the few highlights of the Carter presidency.

I enjoyed watching the space shuttle launches (hey, I was still a kid) and when they started to become routine and not be covered as widely, I was a little disappointed. Which is why I immediately knew something was up on January 28, 1986, when I turned on the TV and the announcers were talking in very somber tones and there was a abnormal plume arching across the Florida sky. We had lost the Challenger astronauts, including teacher in Space, Christa McCauliffe. Say what you want about President Reagan, but he could give a good speech. His address to the nation that evening still gives me goosebumps.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The JFK assassination was on the eve of my mother's 16th birthday. She has a whole scrapbook of newsclippings from the event.

I was in my car on my way to work the morning of Sept. 11. I came in and told most of my co-workers what was going on.

I missed most of the O.J. debacle, as we were living overseas.

Other events I remember: the Columbia disaster, Princess Diana's death, and the University of Iowa shooting.

The Iowa shooting took place in the late afternoon, just in time for Dan Rather to begin his evening broadcast with something like, "This just in, a shooting rampage at the University of Iowa. Details as we receive them." It sent parents near and far into a panic. Here's a link to the story