Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?
Many of us will be remembering the answer to that question this week on the sixth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Big events like those of that day leave indelible imprints on our memories. They affect our lives in other ways, too. Sometimes the impact is small; other times it can be huge. There’s been an increased interest in preserving family history, for example, since the events of 9/11 when so many young, innocent lives were extinguished without warning. For me, that ultimately led to a career shift, taking my 35 years of newspaper and writing experience in a totally new direction.
For people of my generation, there are other similar defining moments, incidents where a slice of time is etched deeply in our minds. The assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. The death of Elvis. The Challenger disaster.
For me, there are others. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all dead of drugs in a 10-month span. The day John Lennon was shot. The day Pope John Paul II was shot. Woodstock. The Kent State shootings.
The gunning down of JFK in Dallas is the pre-9/11 benchmark for many of us. I was a freshman at Omaha University that day, studying in the library when I heard of the shooting via a whispered conversation. Several of us headed to the audio-visual area where a TV was tuned to coverage of the event. We soon heard that the wounds were fatal. We left in stunned silence.
Although the nation began to grieve immediately, my high school alma mater played a basketball game that Friday night. I went. During a moment of silence before the game, somebody behind us was clowning around. One of the kids in my group, normally a mild-mannered sort, turned around and smacked the offender in the mouth. That was that. One punch. No retaliation. Just silence.
What big events do you remember? How have they shaped your lives through your actions or in the retelling of your stories? Have you taken steps to document the stories and their impact on you?