Photo from NY Times

I saw Lee Daniel’s The Butler yesterday, it was a good movie. Not only am I surprised that I like Mariah Carey much more when her mouth is closed ( shhh…don’t speak ) but I was impressed at the arc of this man’s life and the events that took place during that time.  It got me to thinking about some of the events that have happened so far during my life span. Here are a few just off the top of my head. What are some of yours?

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

The space shuttle Challenger exploded when I was in elementary school in 1986.  I can’t remember now if I actually saw it explode during my class period (seems like I would remember this?) or if my class was to watch the recorded launch. I just remember a slight numbness in knowing before I left school that day that it had exploded and being anxious to tell my mom when I got home what had happened because it was a big deal.

Nelson Mandela released from prison

On February 11, 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison after being incarcerated for 27 years when I was in middle school. Mr. Flowers showed us a political cartoon of Nelson Mandela pushing up out of the hole of a padlock, thereby unlocking it and being freed.  We must have been doing a unit on political cartoons at that time. I don’t think anyone in class knew who Nelson Mandela was before that day. I still remember that cartoon and because of it I still remember the day.

Rwandan Genocides

I was in the 10th grade when my English teacher brought up the “civil war” going on in Rwanda with the Hutu and the Tutsi.  That’s what he called it…a civil war.  He sat perched on the corner of his desk and provided an opportunity for us to discuss what was going on, which I thought was odd.  The manner in which he did this suggested that they may have been instructed by some unseen school crisis counselor to do so. One classmate was moved enough to speak. This normally brash girl seemed unusually thoughtful as she asked “ I mean…why are they killing each other?”  Maybe I should be paying more attention to the news, I thought. I remembered this day in retrospect after watching Hotel Rwanda and reading the book that inspired the movie.   I learned that this was not a civil war at all but an organized genocide.  And this may have been the first time I really wondered how often the American media lies to us and decided that it was a lot.

The Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm

Was I watching television the moment the president declared war? I don’t recall. I do recall the cold panic that rushed from my heart to my toes at the thought of a war. I thought we were done with war. I was standing in the kitchen when my mother had the good sense to note my apprehension and to say something to me about it.  I was a little resentful at first at the tone of voice she used.  That was a tone that should be used for a younger child not a high school student, I thought.  My resentment didn’t last long though and my anxiety melted away as she told me not to worry, that the war would not be on U.S soil. “Fortunate for us…” I thought “…but not so fortunate for someone else.”

The OJ Simpson trial & verdict

I was in a college dorm when the OJ verdict was handed down.  There was collective cheering that rang through the courtyard and bounced off the brick walls of the complex as just about everyone who wasn’t in class had their televisions tuned in to watch.  How easily it is to get caught up in a mob mentality I thought as I stood in the doorway listening to the celebration and came to my own realization “….yeah….OJ probably did it.”

Princess Diana’s death

August 31 1997. I was in my dorm room when I heard the news and I think it was evening. I’d watched her wedding years ago with mom and wondered why she was so interested.  I thought about how my aunt Diana signed all of her Christmas cards as being from “Lady Di” and wondered if she’d heard yet.  The next day in class I tried to log onto the Royal Website to add my condolences along with the rest of the world but the site was so busy I could not get in even after several tries and for the duration of class.


I’d left work during lunch. When I came back there were people outside crying and holding onto  each other so I knew something was wrong.  I was worried that being in an area with so many military installations would make us an eventual target. I left and went home.  If we were going to have planes dropping onto us I might as well be home with my family when it happened.

The Beltway Sniper

I couldn’t  keep the hairs from standing up on the back of my neck every time I went for gas during these several weeks.  I dreaded when my needle hit “E” recalling the person shot down at a gas station.  After the snipers had been caught it was reported that one of the areas Muhammad marked for a hit was mine. 2 of the 3 exits were dangerously close to where I both worked and lived at that time. “Possible hit, less ways out, disadvantage” was Muhammad’s comment. Terrifying.

Obama Campaign, Election and Re-Election

Hampton Roads was an important area to the candidates. They needed to win us over to win Virginia’s vote and so both candidates were here often. I saw Obama speak at Norfolk’s Harbor Park in insanely cold weather on October 28 2008. I was so high in the stadium that he wasn’t much more of a dot down there on the stage.  I didn’t make it to his first Inauguration but made it to the second earlier this year.

The Trayvon Martin case/verdict

The first time in my life I was glad I didn’t have a son.