Friday Question of the Day

explosion challenger, originally uploaded by Alex Cerrato.

A bit sad but I think it’ll be interesting to read your responses. So I was thinking about Obama’s election and how it will probably be seared into most people’s memory. Then I was thinking the previous experience that was seared into most people’s minds was probably 9/11. But I’m curious about your most profound historical memory before 9/11 and this election. Mine was 1986 when the Challenger exploded. Quite traumatic at the time. For my folks it was probably when JFK was assassinated. For my grandparents it was probably when Pearl Harbor was bombed. But I’ve heard other people talk about Bay of Pigs, when the Pope was shot, when Reagan was shot, when John Lennon was shot. Yikes too many folks have been shot. Anyway the FQOTD is – What was your most profound historical memory before 9/11?

47 Comment

  • Vonstallin

    I think the local stuff made a bigger impact on me.
    The 737 that crashed on 14th street bridge during a snow storm back in January 82. I was in Elementary school and it just shock me to death.

    Also the 1991 Mount Pleasant Riots. And how the city was not ready for it also had me sort of scared. I was on a bus trying to get by and it ended up being torch, as was police cars and stores right at 14th and Columbia Rd. I walk and ended up getting massed by the national guards.

    Not as bad, but it stands out and I think about it when I ride or drive by the new Target and area.,_D.C._riot_of_1991

  • US Invasion of Grenada and assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.

  • Hearing on the radio in my suburban DC living room as a child that Martin Luther King had been shot, then the rioting that followed in Washington and other big cities in April, 1968. We had tv but it just so happened the radio was on when this was announced.

  • Oklahoma City bombing and Columbine, the latter happened just a few miles from my house and was particularly jarring.

  • Jonestown – over 900 killed in the name of religion. It just blew my mind as a kid.

    Locally, I’d agree that the Mt. P riots were pretty wild. I ended up sitting with a cop translating the curfew orders for latino residents for a while. I don’t think any officers spoke Spanish at the time. Later that night got my first taste of teargas, but also some great photos.

  • JFK’s assassination for me. I am Caroline Kennedy’s age and it seemed like it was one of my friends mourning her father on the TV screen. Admittedly all my memories of this are in black and white.

  • PoP- I’m with you, the Challenger explosion was my first major historical moment. I was in elementary school and they brought the whole school into the gym/auditorium and had a couple of TVs set up. I remember seeing it explode, not really understanding what happened and then the teachers turning the TVs off and getting us all back to our classrooms. It was scary, partly because I don’t think we completely understood what happened.

  • The 1984 McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro CA.
    That event was the first one of it’s kind that I had heard about. It was also the McD’s we would stop by on our way to and from Tijuana. It shattered my safe zone.

    Now it seems a bit less traumatic when I read about job/school/restaurant mass shootings.


  • The “Beltway Sniper” in October 2002

  • For me – Jonestown as well. I was nine at the time. I remember looking at the pictures in National Geographic of all the dead people, especially the children. The image of all of those people, laying face down, arms around each other has never left me.

  • LA riots and Oklahoma City bombing.

  • without a doubt, the explosion of the death star.

  • 1989 – Berlin Wall coming down.

  • I’d say the fall of the Berlin Wall and the shelling of the Russian Parliament right before the USSR fell. I happened to be home sick from school both days.

  • The Challenger is also my most memorable historical moment before 9/11. I remember exactly where I was, and that gut punch in my stomach. In fact, the picture with your post gave me that gut punch all over again.

  • i think columbine was the first big thing in my world view… up until then everything that happened outside of my small town seemed like another world that didnt affect me, but as a niave high school student at the time, seeing the footage of the school and hearing the details as they became available, i was very rudely awakened to reality.

    the most tragically memorable day in my adult life was the virigina tech shootings. i think it affected everyone, but as an alumnus with friends and brothers still there in those buildings, it was terrifying.

  • LA Riots. Specifically, the Reginald Denny attack. I thought it was savage the way they beat that innocent guy.

    The OJ verdict. I’ll never forget CNN had a split screen of Howard University and a predominately white university. The polar reaction opened my eyes to how differently people can view things.

    Coming full circle. I was in Station 9 when Obama was announced President. I saw a young white lady crying uncontrollably in happiness. My first thought: my how the world has changed in the last 20+ years.

  • The Oklahoma City bombing. I was probably in 5th or 6th grade at the time, and when I first heard that it had happened had no IDEA the impact it had made.

    And I’m glad to hear that I’m not the ONLY person who thought of the OJ verdict. Definitely not on the same level as any of the other events mentioned, but still burned into my brain.

  • TMI. I was 11 when the meltdown ocurred and it was the first time it struck me that the world could kill me. I consulted my kids atlas and discovered just how close Pennsylvania was to DC. It was an important lesson, at a time when childish fantasy starts giving way to “reality” — in this case, the epiphany was that there was no justice, and innocence is no guarantee of success, happiness, or even continued life. … yep, i was a happy child. Really livened up the playground.

  • Well, the Challenger was definitely the first for me. It was kindergarten, and we were watching it happen live. However, being all of six or whatever, I didn’t really quite register it as it happened.

    Probably after that, I’d have to say when Pres. G. H. W. Bush announced the beginning of the Persian Gulf War. A whole bunch of my neighbors got called up to go, so it really had an effect.

    And I still remember where I was during the O.J. chase. It was seventh grade and we had just come home from our class trip to Boston. I walked in my door and it had just started on TV. And the verdict, well, I was in art class and that was an intense experience.

    And, come to think of it, I was in high school and hanging out with some LGBT friends when Pres. Clinton came on and addressed the nation about gays in the military. That was a huge moment for everybody, to have a president who actually accepted their existence.

    And, of course, when the Sox won the World Series and the Patriots won the Super Bowl, but that’s an entirely different story…

  • I think the Oklahoma City bombing, I was too young to completely understand it, maybe 4th or 5th grade, but I remember talking about it in school and writing letters to the victims. Columbine, to a lesser extent, when I was in 7th grade or so. September 11th definitely was though, at the age of 16, was the first the remembering exactly where you were when you heard it kind of event, for me.

    Funny, I remember when the OJ verdict was read too, I was maybe 9 or 10 at the time and I remember distinctly one of my teachers listening to a radio during recess and us gathering around to listen as well, and my teacher being really upset over the verdict. I don’t think I got it at the time.

  • In chron order, Challenger Explosion, Desert Storm, the L.A. Riots / Rodney King, the O.J. Bronco Chase, September 11 …

  • After reading some of these postings – I feel old. 🙂

  • The release of the Iranian hostages during the superbowl in 1981. One of my friend’s fathers was a hostage and it was mindblowing to me.

  • Kay;
    I was just thinking the same thing. So I probably should have spelled out Three Mile Island, rather than TMI, which I guess means something else these days… [shakes fist] git offa my lawn, you kids!

  • Intangible: I knew what you meant by TMI (1979) – I was 10 at the time. I am not sure if PoP has done this, but I would love to know the demographics of his readers. Just silly curiosity on my part!

  • Challenger, then Desert Storm, with the green screen lit up with anti-aircraft fire….

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Poll on the age of PoP readers:

  • Thanks PoP – just as I suspected!

  • I have a very vivid memory of the night Princess Diana died — it was one of the very first nights of my freshman year of college, and something about it (along with Mother Theresa dying a few days later) really hit home as to just how fragile life can be. I have less specific memories of the LA riots (I was only 13 or so at the time), but I remember being shocked/fascinated by what happened.

  • Bill Clinton’s impeachment is my first major nationwide memory. I was a senior in high school and my government class followed the proceedings fairly closely.

    On a somewhat-positive note, the premier of Michael Jackson’s Black & White video also sticks out in my mind as a major event from my childhoood.

  • Here are a few:

    Challenger explosion: I was in 2nd grade or so and they turned on TVs at lunch so we could watch the follow-up

    Berlin wall coming down

    Kurt Cobains’ suicide (a few months after seeing Nirvana perform at AU)

  • Funny you should mention impeachment (I’m going to really date myself.) I remember Nixon’s impeachment. I was in 5th grade. I remember feeling embarassed that I had lead my class to vote for him in a class election poll the year before – “Would they all turn around and blame me?” I secretly thought… (cooky kid)

    Other than that, I remember the LA riots because it happened within a few days of returning from my first visit to the west coast. It was kind of surreal.

    The Challenger, OJ, yeah. Million Man March (all the black guys from NYC were “missing.”) Yet none of these can compare with 9/11 and then this entire election season.

  • Definitely the Challenger. I was in third grade, and I remember the second grade teacher coming in and telling us to turn on the tv (don’t know why we weren’t watching it in the first place!). I still can’t watch a shuttle take off without holding my breath until the shuttle disappears from sight – I’m still convinced I’m going to see it explode!

    Second – The Rodney King riots. I was in jr high, and things in my small southern town were tense. I accidentally bumped into someone in the hallway, got lifted by my shirt and slammed into a locker and told “watch where you’re going, white girl.”

  • Kay and Intangible – I hear you, and I know I am old. When we studied “flashbulb memories” in college in the 80s, the one that most of us remembered was the shooting of Reagan. I was in the 8th grade and remember it was raining. My mother only picked us up from school when it rained, and she told my friend and me about it when we got in the car.

    The Jonestown tragedy was a couple years before that, and it really didn’t have the same effect on me, because the news of the horror spread out over several days. What I do remember of that time was the asssassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk in San Francisco just after the Jonetown massacre. I lived in Massachusetts, and probably did not even know where San Francisco was, but I remember vividly the clip of Diane Fienstein announcing the assassinations that was on the news.

  • I was sitting in class in middle school when the principal announced over the intercom that the Iranian hostages were being flown home.

    Same thing with the assassination attempt on Reagan, and Al Haig infamously saying “I’m in charge, here”, leading me to be confused about the role of the Vice President.

    And I do remember being in the Frederick Town Mall Theater in Fredneck, MD, when the Death Star exploded.

  • Virginia Tech shootings. I was at VT when Columbine happenned and remember being so deeply disturbed by it. Then to watch what happenned at VT years later, with such a personal feeling attachment to the place was incredibly emotional – still is. I lived there for 10 years, from 91 to 2001.

    I wish it was a happy moment – it seems we all remember the terrible. I’ll never forget the day I walked across the stage and got my college diploma (did I mention 10 years in Bburg!). I’d say that was the most memorable positive feeling I’ve ever had. I don’t have kids yet, but I suppose that will supplant graduation.

  • I certainly remember the Challenger explosion (I was in grammar school and the grade had gathered to watch it on television) and the Berlin wall falling. In both instances, I gathered from the reactions of adults that it was important, but I’m not sure I understood what was going on. I remember watching my teacher cry more vividly than I do the explosion. And I remember my parents trying to explain why the fall of the Wall was important, unable to tear themselves away from the television. Similar for Desert Storm. I mainly remember watching the reactions of adults.

    The first national “moments” that I think I understood on a more personal level came as a teenager – the first events that my peers and I really reacted to. Kurt Cobain’s suicide (which probably only mattered to teenagers). And the OJ verdict, which in the great scheme of things is probably not that important, but I saw racial schism on a nationwide scale for the first time. I had seen it on a personal scale. And even on a community scale. So the differing reactions in my high school cafeteria didn’t surprise me. But the press coverage of the same thing happening across the nation was mind-boggling.

  • As a side note, it is fascinating how few of these are events that people remember as positive. Just the Wall. And Obama’s election.

  • Kent State shootings

  • As a kid I think it would have been Hurricane Andrew… It was a really weird experience to be sort of holed up in the house with my parents for a few days. At first it seemed like a fun, electricity free vacation, but when we finally opened the front door and went outside everything was a mess. They ended up cutting down a lot of trees to prepare for the next “big one” and all around the gulf coast so many people lost their homes.

    Then as an adult, again, it would be Hurricane Katrina. I had just come to DC for my preliminary trip to find a job (as in I flew up the day Katrina hit) and I felt completely stranded. I spent days finding family and friends, seeing if our homes were ok, feeling guilty for not being there to help my mom evacuate when it happened. All in all it was incredibly profound because of the way I felt personally and then it really informed how I felt politically about the governance of Louisiana and the US. You really start to feel differently about the people in power when they basically flat out show you that they don’t care AT ALL about the poor and powerless.

    On a happy note, I cried like a baby when Obama won because it really felt like my experience in DC came full circle. The man has a lot of hopes weighing on him…

  • Oh yeh;
    I was in the ratty little theater in Laurel Mall (i think that was before they built the big indoor bit on the opposite side of Peoples’ Drug) in 1977 when the Death Star exploded.

  • The execution of the abolitionist John Brown. (just kidding)
    Ah, guess it would be the King assassination…

  • oh reuben, you are so funny 🙂

  • Mine was when Reagan was shot. I was in elementary school & I remember watching the news footage over and over in our classroom as it all unfolded. Then we were dismissed early, yay!

  • In addition to the Kennedy assassination, which happened when I was in eighth grade (I’m surely one of the oldest readers of this blog), an event a few years earlier remains in my memory. In 1957, a mere three years after the Supreme Court ruled legally mandated school segregation unconstitutional in the “Brown…” case, about a dozen African-American students attempted to attend a previously all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The governor of the state attempted to stop them; in response, President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne. I was seven and just beginning to understand that I was a “Negro” and some of the implications of that, and the idea that the President was sending soldiers to protect Negro children from bad people was quite overwhelming. Ever since, Eisenhower has had a place in my heart.

  • Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!

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