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.
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.
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.
My first Barbie was a purple clad ebony astronaut. I was into all things aeronautical (as much as was possible). I watched the Challenger launch at a baby sitter’s house (wasn’t old enough for school yet). The crash didn’t deter me. I held onto wanting to be an astronaut through middle school.
The felling of the Berlin Wall for some reason sticks out in my mind. The event was probably cemented by an Alvin & The Chipmunks episode that dedicated a song to it.
I remember TGIF being interrupted for updates on a “White Bronco” being pursued through the streets. Subsequently I recall being in my 9th grade math class as the verdict was announced and thinking “WT…?”
9/11? Man. I was in an International Relations course in my 2nd year of college. I’d arrived early for class (for once) and I was wondering why the tv was on in my class. Someone had just told me “A plane hit the WTC in New York” when I looked up to see the 2nd plane hit. Will never forget that. Totally changed my thoughts towards my major and what I wanted to do after college.
The death of the King of Pop. I wasn’t even a big MJ fan but I rooted for him in this great race called life. I remember someone telling me he was dead. My coworkers and I scoured the internet to make sure it was true. We didn’t believe it. Craziness.
3 natural disasters: The big tsunami that hit in 2004; Hurricane Katrina; 2011 tsunami in Japan. I almost have no words. I remember seeing live footage on BBC of the water hitting a rural town in Japan and just towards the edge of the screen was someone in a pickup truck who was trying to out-drive the deluge of water. Broke my heart. I’m teary eyed thinking about it. The truck was totally engulfed in the water. It’s one thing to have those kinds of scenes orchestrated by Hollywood. It’s something else when you see them play out in reality. I swore off of end of the world movies for a good 2 years.
Obama Inauguration. I was in Brazil when that went down. People celebrated so openly. I was intrigued by him when he visited Richmond in….May 2007 at Artworks. It was the first time I’d attended a rally. Wanted to attend for both the Democrats and Republicans but I never knew when the Repubs were in town. The dems made sure I knew when their boy was in RIC. http://youtu.be/B3Hp7YpyhXg lol
Ah the Berlin wall, I cant remember where I was when that happened though I do remember wanting a piece of the wall. I agree with you on watching natural disasters unfold, its heart wrenching. Watching the last moments of someone’s life…disturbing. I avoided those movies for a long while after as well. Its like they were popping up every few months. Didn’t seem right watching them.
Thank you for sharing!