Friday, January 28, 2011

Where were you when...?

So much of our times can be defined by the simple question “Where were you when [insert event here]?”
I’ll give you some of the ones I remember.  Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the BLOG page.
The Cuban Missile Crisis: I was in third or fourth grade at Stillman Elementary school in Plainfield New Jersey.  We practiced ‘nuclear fallout’ drills by hiding under our desks with our hands over our eyes to keep us from going blind because we were staring at the fallout.  I guess it was presumed that with New York City being only about thirty miles away, it would be the primary target and all we’d get in Plainfield, assuming Russian and Cuban aiming technology was precise, and the commies didn’t know about my thorough, complete, mint condition Superman magazine collection, all we’d get was fallout – if the wind was right.
I spent many nights awake, shivering in my bed, wondering if I’d be able to get to my classroom and make it to my desk in time if the attack came after 3:00 pm when school let out.
Cassius Clay Defeats Sonny Liston:  same third or fourth grade classroom.  They wheeled in a 16 mm movie projector and showed the newsreel summation of the fight.  I will never forget the look on the young Cassius Clay’s face when he won.
The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy:  New house, new address, new school, new grade, same city.  A crying principal announced over the school PA system that there was a special announcement we needed to hear, followed by the emotional voice of Walter Cronkite telling us that “from Dallas, Texas, a flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1:00 pm Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard time, some thirty-eight minutes ago.”  I was in fifth grade.  We were stunned into silence.  They didn’t have grief counselors back then, so they just sent us home.  My mother was sitting in the kitchen crying.
Apollo 11 Moon Landing:  Watched it from my home television, almost literally glued to the TV.  I wanted to be an astronaut back in the day, and seeing this almost real time was a dream come true for me.
Challenger Disaster: I was driving to my second job – computer teacher – and heard it on the radio.  I had to pull off the road into a Burger King parking lot and listen again because I was so shaken by the news that I couldn’t stop the trembling in my hands to drive.
Columbia Disaster:  I watched this live on TV, staring at the screen in unbelief.
9/11: My radio alarm was set to the local National Public Radio station and Morning Edition.  Ditto my car radio.  NPR doesn’t interrupt their pre-recorded programming for anything.  It wasn’t until I arrived at my store – a film processing lab inside a Kinko’s on 28th Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Kinko's manager called me over to watch an unfolding story on the TV that I had a clue.  I arrived just in time to see the second aircraft slam into the second tower, and the subsequent collapse of the building in real time as it was happening.  I was front row in a sea of about 40 customers and employees of the two businesses mesmerized by the unfolding scenes.  With the exception of sobs and tears, you could have heard a pin drop in a bushel of cotton.
Tucson, 2011: An idiot with an automatic weapon at a public gathering.  Twelve shot, six dead, including a nine year old girl.  A United States Congresswoman severely injured.
Today:  No major disasters in the headlines, no assassinations, shuttle explosions or amazing feats of heretofore unexpected athletic prowess.  Today, in St. Petersburg, just south of us, the city is mourning the death of two policemen who died in the line of duty.  Men murdered in the prime of their lives while ‘protecting and defending’ their city, and the citizens of their city.  Today is the city-wide memorial. It is being broadcast live locally for those who cannot attend.  A shout out to local CBS (News 10) news anchor Reginald Roundtree for the sensitive, respectful coverage he has personally given both this tragedy, and the men being honored and remembered.  Heroes.  Not talentless stage freaks who cannot sing, film actors with egos the size of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, sideshow circus clowns who grab ‘face’ time whenever there is some sort of national disaster with coattails they can ride, or professional athletes caught up in the misspent belief that what they do really matters to anyone but their agents.  No, these men are the real heroes.  They risk their lives every single day.  They leave behind wives and children who begin each day with the unspoken question ‘will daddy come home tonight?”  This time they didn’t come home.  This time they made the ultimate sacrifice.  Today, their city remembers them.
A late night in Bethlehem of Judea over 2,000 years ago: When the angels rejoiced with mankind over the birth of a Savior.  Where was I?  The Psalmist wrote  “You formed me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:14)  And 33 years later, when you bled and died on Calvary’s cross, it was for me.
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