This post started out as a quick follow-up to my February post about Growing Up In the 60s, but life, and other things, intervened. . .
And today being the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, it seems an opportune time to bring it back up. . .
The Kennedy assassination was one of those 'definitive' events in US history. As I alluded before, it is almost the marker for the beginning of 'The Sixties', in terms of the broad social/cultural changes that people associate with that period. For people of my generation, it is a huge, bright marker of time in our lives. Ask anyone over 50 where they were, and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, and they will almost certainly be able to tell you, in great detail. It was a little disorienting when, in the 80s or so, I started running into young adults who, when the question came up, could only say, "I wasn't born yet."
The president was shot on a Friday, in the early afternoon, and I was walking home from school (2nd grade), laughing and goofing around with a few of the neighborhood kids. When we got close to my house, my mother (the one who recently died) burst out of the front door and yelled for me to get in the house, that the president had been shot, and this was no time to be goofing around. Which sort of set the tone, right off the bat.
As it turned out, my dad had just taken a new job, and our family was moving Up North that very weekend. The president's funeral was the following Monday, and I remember going to my uncle's house to watch on TV, before beginning the long drive to our new home. So, for me, the Kennedy assassination was a marker of all kinds of changes in my young life.
For folks of my parents' generation Pearl Harbor was a similar 'watershed' event - the kind of thing where you remember where you were when you heard the news, and you know instantly that this is something huge.
Just like September 11 was, in more recent days.
And the first moon landing, as I mentioned in the earlier post (and today, as already noted, is the 40th anniversary of that auspicious event. . .)
The King and Robert Kennedy assassinations in the spring of 1968 were also huge events. I remember my mom waking us up in the morning (it had to have been one of the last school days of that year), telling us that 'Kennedy was killed last night', and, in my groggy 12-year-old state, I said, "Mom, that was five years ago. . ."
It's funny, but in the comments to the previous post, FTN mentioned the Challenger explosion, and I do think that it was a similar 'I remember' event for quite a few people, even though it hardly portended huge, world-changing events. But I remember very clearly, being at work, as the word began to go through the office, and a bunch of us gathered around the TV set in the lunchroom to watch the coverage. The thing is, for most of us, at least of my age, the space program was sort of one of our 'engineering idols' - these were the best of the best, the guys who epitomized the best of what it meant to be an engineer. So watching that shuttle explode into a million tiny fragments was like watching one of our heroes dying in a car crash.
I have an aunt whose birthday is December 7, 1931; so she was having her tenth birthday party when Pearl Harbor happened. Her daughter, my cousin, was born on November 22, 1963 - the day of the Kennedy assassination. Which was all weird enough. But it became spooky when we realized that my grandma's birthday - the mother of the same aunt - was September 11, 1902; the towers fell on what would have been my grandma's 99th birthday. (Should I be glad that my cousin has no children?)
So - what are the 'watershed' events of your lives - the things that stand out in your memories, that you remember where you were, and what you were doing when you heard?