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April 4th, 2007
02:55 pm
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Nostalgia du jour
I was listening to the local radio station today on my way to work. Mel Walsh was interviewing fellow author Marjorie Hart about her new book on the summer of 1945.

One of the things that came up in passing in their conversation was the events of V-J Day -- it was one of those Historic Moments that everyone remembers, the sort that years later people can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news.

(Pearl Harbor was another one of these. I recall my father telling me of how a policeman pulled over the car he was riding in on Dec. 7, 1941 ... just to tell them that the U.S. had been attacked.)

Mel opined that the announcement of the Japanese surrender was, for the generation that came of age in the 1940s, their "JFK was shot" moment. Which got me thinking about modern era landmarks.

I'm not old enough to have been around for JFK. But there are three national news moments in my lifetime that stand out in relief:

  • The Challenger explosion. I was in my fifth-grade classroom. The principal came into the room in tears. We stopped and watched TV. I think there was an assembly shortly afterward, and I think they cancelled the rest of the school day, but it was that first moment that seared itself into my mind.
  • The OJ Simpson criminal verdict. I was in college, taking a fencing PE class. The instructor had sent me off to the school's second gym to retrieve some equipment. Everyone was clustered around the TVs there (there were none in the gym we were using). I hustled back to class with the equipment and the news; when I got there, word had already spread ahead of me. Someone else had heard it on the radio and informed the class.
  • 9/11. As a West Coaster, I first heard about it at 7 am on the bus on my way to work. When I got there, everyone was clustered around the one Internet-capable machine trying to find out more, but news web sites were overloaded and unreachable. I helped my coworkers confirm it by finding this Slashdot thread. We were in a downtown Seattle high rise, and they very quickly sent us home -- nobody was certain how many more buildings would be targets that day.
Now I'm wondering -- were there any truly historic, galvanizing moments after JFK? There must have been some in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, but I can't think of any really epic ones other than 9/11. Certainly nothing on the order of a presidential assassination or a World War victory comes to mind.

Current Location: ~calorg
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Indigo Girls, "History of Us"
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From:kshandra
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
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Remember that ABC's Nightline originally began as a nightly news roundup of developments in the Iranian hostage situation. It may or may not have been a "galvanizing moment," per se, but that can largely be attributed to the fact that it took a year and change to resolve. It was certainly a foundation stone in today's trouble.
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From:nolly
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
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I didn't know that. But I barely remember the Iranin hostage situation -- so fuzzily, in fact, that I might be remembering news reports in the aftermath, regarding ongoing tensions in the region.
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From:baronlaw
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
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Berlin wall being torn down.
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From:the_siobhan
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
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That's the one I was going to mention.
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From:circuit_four
Date:April 5th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
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I have fond memories of that one. I would've been... fourteen? And I remember watching CNN coverage that had degenerated into two old journalists who had known each other during the Cold War but could rarely visit each other because one was East German and the other was American. And the two of them stood around telling jokes about the Trabant, a legendarily bad automobile that was a symbol of East German life. It was just... really warm and charming, somehow.
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From:nolly
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC)
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We were talking about Challenger as a generational landmark recently at work.
9/11 certainly will be one, too -- right now, everyone old enough to care remembers it, pretty much, but in 10 or 15 years, there will be a generation who have come of age after 9/11.

Looking at the public role of and attitude towards the space program before and after Challenger, I do think it had a major historical significance. One of the more visible to me changes, which is symptomatic of the larger change: the Young Astronauts ad/PR campaign vanished. Someday I should scan some of the ephemera I have from that era.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
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When I first heard of the Challenger explosion, I was lying on the couch, sick with a cold and half asleep. I saw a news teaser in which the anchorwoman said something about a shuttle blowing up. And in my drowsy state, I confused real-life shuttles with sci-fi movie spaceships, and my first thought was, "What, another one?"

The OJ Simpson trial... man, I didn't even care about that. All I really knew about it was that my West Coast friends kept complaining that it preempted new episodes of Animaniacs, so I'd go on a.t.a or #animaniacs wanting to talk about the latest cartoon, but hearing, "I haven't seen it because of that stupid trial."

On 9-11-2001, I was sleeping late. My mom woke me up to come see the news, telling me a plane had hit the World Trade Center. By then, the towers had fallen, and all I could see on the live feed was papers and debris and a thick haze of dust all over the streets of New York, and I didn't know what was going on, so I went back to bed.

Other than that, there hasn't been much. There was the tsunami... Reagan was shot, but he survived... John Lennon was shot to death... Princess Di died in a car crash...
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From:baphnedia
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
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In answer to your question, some other galvanizing moments in your history:

Three Mile Island Meltdown...
Chernobyl
Mount St Helens (at least for the Pacific NW)
Somebody else mentioned the Berlin Wall
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From:kadyg
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
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My dad has mentioned Nixon resigning (which he also recalls as the first summer he was a father, since I was born earlier that year), RFK and Martin Luther King both being assassinated. (FYI, according to my good friends at Wikipedia, MLK was shot this day in 1968.)
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From:natetg
Date:April 4th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)
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Desert Storm (a.k.a. Gulf War I)

The Berlin Wall/Iron Curtain coming down.

Nixon's resignation

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From:ngarewyrd
Date:April 5th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
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one of the TV stations here recently did a countdown of galvanising moments

Yes, JFK was there, So was the moon landing, So was the berlin wall, so was september 11, so was the little girl running down the street with her skin burnt off in the vietnam war

Oh, and so also was the one that still sticks in my mind... the single guy in tienamein square, Standing in front of a column of tanks, preventing them from travelling further

I remember that one well, simply because we were shown that one in high school, over and over and over again

(as for the number one ranking on their list, September eleven of course, tis still too new and 'raw' for folks to really overlook it in favour of something a little 'more' important)
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From:mactavish
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)
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*nod* I remember the Tiananmen square thing vividly, too, but almost as a hazy "happening" rather than one big clunk event.

I find that I remember things I was paying closer attention to and living through as sort of short eras, or the hazy happening, and things I heard about soon afterwards (like 9/11, or the Challenger explosion) as events.
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From:necama
Date:April 5th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
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John Lennon getting shot.
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From:heron61
Date:April 5th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
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I vividly remember being in my second year in college and hearing about John Lennon's death. Also, as I small child, I remember hearing about the death's of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I also remember hearing about Reagan being shot when I was in college, but that was basically an occasion for somewhat ghoulish amusement than anything remotely serious.

While clearly very personal, I also remember the first Gulf War - as someone who was a small child during Vietnam, and so hearing of the start of the first real war since then angered and horrified me. My fellow grad students at the time were all somewhat younger than me and so I remember them looking at me oddly as I struggled to hold back tears.
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From:mactavish
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:41 am (UTC)
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I was teaching nursery school during the first gulf war, we had kids whose parents sat and stared, aghast, at TV news, so a lot of the kids' art was pictures of cities with lines (tracer shells) shooting up into the sky.
From:axonfuel
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC)
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The 1992 Rodney King riots.
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From:mactavish
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
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For me, with varying degrees of import or intensity:

'81, Anwar Sadat's assassination. I was an exchange student, my host mother came in and woke me to let me know, as she was stunned, and knew I'd care. (She didn't wake her own daughter, who might not have known who Sadat was.)

'80, John Lennon's assassination. I was listening to the radio at the time anyhow (KZAP? KRQR? out of Sacramento, at any rate) when it was announced that he'd been shot, and rushed to the hospital. I listened for hours, listened as his death was announced, then for hours of Beatles and Lennon music.

I have vague memories of periods of time in the seventies . . . but not *events*. I remember the Watergate era, the end of the Vietnam War.

I was in boarding school for two years, fairly away from instantaneous news, but all the juniors and seniors were required to subscribe to either Newsweek or Time, for civics, and I remember *vividly* pulling the Newsweek out of my mailbox to find a picture of bloated bodies around a koolaid barrel in Jonestown, and one week either before or after (before, I think) the issue that covered the assassinations of Milk and Moscone.

I remember RFK's assassination vaguely, and a couple of moonwalks, but not exactly which, except for the last one.
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From:hafoc
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)
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"forward-- kicking up some dust. Contact light? Contact... Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

It was different from any of the others because it was not a disaster, and because nobody asks where you were when it happened. You were sitting in front of your TV set, watching, when it happened. The whole world was.
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From:natetg
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:08 pm (UTC)
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Big event, for certain, but it didn't happen in the 1970-2000 timeframe.
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From:sashajwolf
Date:April 5th, 2007 01:38 pm (UTC)
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My list is, predictably, slightly more UK-oriented :-)

1) The 1972 Olympics massacre - the first news event I can remember. I was three years old.

2) Margaret Thatcher winning the 1979 election. I had no previous knowledge of politics and was pleased that a woman had won. My father was furious, not so much at me as at his own inability to make me understand. Now, of course, I understand only too well.

3) Ronald Reagan getting shot, not because it had any great political effect, but because of my parents' reaction when we first got the news and didn't know whether he would survive.

4) The Falklands War. Friends of ours were sent to the South Atlantic about halfway through. By the time they got there, the shooting was over, but someone my mother knew was later killed by landmines.

5) The 1984-85 miners' strike. This had a huge political significance in the UK; the British trade union movement has never recovered from it, and it is still remembered with immense bitterness. I thought at the time, and still think, that it was the wrong battle to pick; but that didn't make it any less heart-breaking to see it lost.

6) The Challenger explosion. I saw it live on TV while waiting for the father of one of the kids I babysat to pick me up in his car.

7) The murder of
Pat Finucane. I was with his nephew Rory and a few other friends, recovering from an all-night party, when Rory picked up a newspaper from our host's coffee table and went white as a sheet. Our College porters had been trying to find him to give him the news, but because he hadn't been back to his room, they were too late.

8) Margaret Thatcher's resignation. I was in London for a job interview, and as I stood on a Tube platform waiting to go back to the train station, it was announced on the PA system. Many people cheered, but I think many of around my age also felt slightly bereft, because although we wanted her gone, we had also known nothing else since we first became aware of politics.

9) The first major IRA ceasefire. I was at home unpacking after buying our first house, and I rang into work to let everyone know. For the next two years, I felt a lightness walking around London that I hadn't known before.

10) 9/11. No links neeed for that one. I was at work when the news came through on the BBC ticker I had on my desktop at the time. Slowly, people gathered in our conference suite and started watching CNN. After the second plane hit, we knew it was an attack, and my boss and I turned round and went back to work, because somewhere in the IRA campaign, we'd internalised that if you let the terrorists stop you doing your work, then you let the terrorists win. We stayed at our desks until the security guards closed the office and sent us home.

Interesting how many of those are related to terrorism, now that I write them down. As I wrote in a comment elsejournal recently, terrorism was more of a background concern for me growing up - it was the Cold War that was at the forefront. I guess there were fewer specific news events associated with the Cold War, though.
From:antwondotcom
Date:April 5th, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC)
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I can think of a few historic events (like the aforementioned Berlin Wall coming down), and several remember-where-you-where moments (Princess Di's crash, the two recent breakings of the MLB home run record), but nothing that really qualifies as both. The Oklahoma City bombing was national enough, but didn't really register on my scope as an Important Event at the time; the Loma Prieta earthquake was memorable as all hell, but I obviously suffer from local bias. I guess I'd consider the '87 stock crash as well, but I personally wasn't old enough to be particularly impacted by it.

Either way, it's an interesting ponderable....
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