- Week 49. Historical Events. Describe a memorable national historical event from your childhood. How old were you and how did you process this event? How did it affect your family?
The hard part of this will be for me to pick just one event. I'm young enough to have missed John F. Kennedy's assassination, just young enough I don't remember Robert Kennedy's assassination either. I do vaguely recall Richard Nixon resigning and flying off in a helicopter. I would have been about 8 years old. I vaguely recall thinking it was a good thing he was resigning, but I'm not sure I had a real good understanding of why it was happening. I do remember Watergate being in the news a lot, and thinking Watergate was an odd name. I don't remember there being any direct effect on my family, though my parents didn't really talk about politics with me at the time.
More of my remembrances deal with the space program. I remember some of the later lunar landings in the Apollo program, and I remember Skylab being manned. I was about 9 years old at that time. And I also remember it falling back to Earth. I really remember the Viking probes landing on Mars, and the full-color supplements in the newspaper with color pictures from the Red Planet. I was 10 years old when they landed. I remember the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission with the Russians, and the special docking module they had to use to join the spacecraft. It was a major milestone, being done during the Soviet era, between two normally competing space programs. When I was this age, I really planned on a career as an astronaut. I don't think my parents cared one way or another about anything in the space program, but it was quite important to me. Later, I remember being shocked by the Challenger tragedy, and still later by the loss of Columbia. Fourteen astronauts died in those two accidents.
I remember the hostage crisis in Iran, and how every day the Days counter on the news programs would increment by one. I remember it dragging on and on, and finally coming to an end after Ronald Reagan got elected President. Was Iran afraid of what President Reagan was going to do to them if they didn't release our people, or was the timing coincidental?
I remember hearing about the terrorist bombing of US Marines barracks in Lebanon.
I remember the first gulf war, Operation Desert Shield, later Operation Desert Storm. I remember this one very well, because I was on active duty at the time in the US Navy. In fact, I was in VF-32, a squadron of F-14 fighter jets assigned to USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), and our battle group was the one tagged to go over first. At that time, I was preparing to transfer to shore duty, and I wasn't sure if they would drag me overseas and send me back at some later time, or if they would leave me behind to transfer on time. It ended up the latter. I transferred to the Photo Lab on the base I lived near about a month after the squadron left for the Gulf. That month I spent standing watches in an empty hangar full of the files and equipment they hadn't taken along, cleaning and basically just waiting for my transfer. I remember watching on CNN as the reporters filmed and described the night time attacks with tracer fire looking like fireworks. I was glad I wasn't over there, as we had no idea of Saddam Hussein's capabilities and whether we would have been in danger (turns out the ship was safe enough), but was concerned for the well-being of my former squadron mates.
A bit later, I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was about 23 when it happened, and I remember being stunned that it actually happened, and watching people on CNN with sledgehammers breaking down parts of it. Of course, any time prior to this, people would have been shot for doing that. I remember when the Soviet Union collapsed, with a similar sense that it wasn't real somehow, that we would always have our communist rivals.
I remember again watching CNN as a white Ford Bronco made its way slowly down an abandoned freeway followed by a lot of police cars as O.J. Simpson ran from them. I remember watching more of his trial as well. CNN figures prominently in my memories, as it seems I caught a number of major events as they happened that way.
As I watch world events today, I wonder which ones we will remember in years to come as being the major, pivotal events that changed history. Will the Occupy movement make a real difference? Will Iran get nuclear power, or weapons? Will they use them if they do? Will we ever finish the War on Terror? The War on Drugs? Any of the other "wars" we're fighting? Will our leaders manage to fix our country and economy before we go down the tubes? Will global warming actually come about, or will we do something to mitigate it? The problem with historical events is that by the time you realize what events were really important, and what effects they had, you're past where that knowledge can be of any real use to you.
This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman