Some events will be etched in my memory forever.
Growing up, I always heard my parents and grandparents talk about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This was one of the overriding events that was etched in my family’s collective memory. As I was sitting here tonight thinking about Nelson Mandela’s death, I thought about what is etched in MY memory…
With the end of 2013 quickly approaching, this seemed like a good time to take a look back. Everyone loves to take a “look back” at the end of every year. We look back at all of the people who died the previous year, we look back at all of the top music and top movies for the year. We look back at all of the major news stories that have unfolded. I want to take this opportunity to look back on my life. A look back at all of the events that have made an impression on me. These are the events that have shaped me. These are the events that I will never forget.
I had to count backward just before writing this to figure it out, but I was in second grade when this happened. January 28th, 1986. At the time, interest in the space program was still a very important aspect of the American culture. I remember that it was always a big deal to sit down and watch the space shuttle launch back then.
This time was no different. This time was especially important. This time we had a teacher going up into space for the first time ever! Christa McAuliffe was supposed to be the first teacher to go into space through a program called Teacher in Space Project. Because of this, there was a lot of interest in my school, especially from the teachers about this particular launch. I remember that our class got to watch the launch on TV while in class. I remember not really understanding what had just happened. I remember getting to go home early from school that day. I remember writing a report about the tragedy days later in class that my mom still has to this day. I know that this is why I developed a love for space. The sacrifice that these people made for the furtherance of science and space exploration made a deep impression on me. One that still lives in me to this day.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
November 9th 1989 is considered the date at which the wall officially came down. In reality, the wall was up much longer than this, but this is the date when protesters began to manually demolish the wall with sledgehammers and other manual tools.
As a child of 12 at the time, this made quite an impression on me. This was the symbolic end of the Cold War. This was proof that we had won! This was a group of people fighting against oppression and doing so in peaceful protest and then winning that fight! There is so much more to this story than what I knew about it at the age of 12. The way the world was changing at this point though seemed to be ALL for the good. Communism was over, War was over (who was our enemy now?) and it was all proven by those pieces of the Berlin Wall crumbling down underneath the sheer determination of the protesters beating it down.
The death of Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of Nirvana. Nirvana symbolized everything I had grown to love in music at this point in my life. I had spent the last 2 years or so pulling myself out of a post 80’s pop funk that I had found myself in for most of my life up until then.
This was MY music. Soundgarden, Soul Asylum, Bush, and of course Nirvana had come onto the music scene with force and they were here to stay (well… Soul Asylum kind of fell off the map, but I still loved them)!
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were the ring leaders of this grunge revolution and I loved their music. I still love their music. When Kurt Cobain died on April 5th, 1994 I was in shock. This guy was my idol and I wanted to continue idolizing him for a long time, but now he was gone.
The grunge revolution continued without him, but I have never accepted the Foo Fighters as a fair replacement for my beloved Nirvana…
The end of Apartheid in South Africa
I was 16 at this point in my life and shocked to know that something like this still existed. Surely we’ve rid the world of such injustice I remember thinking. Growing up in the U.S. allows for us to be a bit too comfortable and we don’t realize that things aren’t always as they should be in the rest of the world. This was my first real exposure to the inequity that still exists in this world.
It was also another great example of a group of people fighting for what they believe in and in the end winning their freedom. I attribute much of my unrealistic ideals that I place on this world to the fact that I grew up in a world that seemed to be realizing unrealistic ideals year after year!
I remember waking up to a call from my grandmother. She says to me on the phone, “We’re under attack!”. I was a bit unsettled to hear my grandmother tell me that we were under attack, so I did what anybody else would have done and I went to turn on the TV.
We all know what I saw.
The next few days I remember walking around in a daze. I remember talking to almost every person I met on the street. I remember that we all loved each other regardless of race or economic status. We were all Americans and we had just been attacked.
Unfortunately, this daze came to an abrupt end. It came to an end because my fellow Americans began questioning actions that our government was taking in response to the attack. It came to an end because people were losing their jobs just for speaking out against these actions. I began to realize that this attack could mean the end of my freedom. When I came to this realization, I was pissed! I couldn’t believe that we would give up our freedoms so easily here in this country. I couldn’t believe that people were losing their jobs because they disagreed with our president. I couldn’t believe that we so quickly allowed ourselves to be spied on and searched simply because we were attacked.
To me, the reason the United States is such a great nation lies exclusively in our rights as citizens. To me, speaking out against something you perceive as wrong (no matter the belief of the masses) is a right that we should protect and cherish. To me, unfortunately, this became entangled with the tragedy of 9/11. I was just as appalled as any other person that witnessed this, but I wasn’t nearly as willing to give up my rights.
In the following year, I was also not willing to believe the B.S. that was being shoved down my throat about Iraq. I felt like my country had been hijacked and I still haven’t quite recovered from that mess even today.
There’s more than just these events that shaped my life. I was first active in a political campaign because of Ralph Nader’s bid for the Presidency. I again was briefly active during Barack Obama’s bid for the Presidency. The entire reason I thought to write this post is because of the recent death of Nelson Mandela.
These events are simply a list of events that I will never forget and that were permanently etched in my memory. They are also a list of collective experiences. Chances are, if you lived through these events, they mean something to you as well.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the events I listed and what they meant to you.