Monday, September 10, 2012

Never Forget?

This popped up on xkcd a while ago, but my mind keeps dwelling on it.

There is a substantial amount of things on this list that I already don't know anything about. Yeah, I've heard about what happened to Challenger, and I know about Chernobyl because my dad worked at a nuclear plant, but I don't have memories of sitting in front of the television, horror-struck as I watched these events unfold. I don't think back fondly on any Star Wars movie, and working on any Apple computer doesn't make me smile and realize how far we've come in the last 36 years.

It's not until OJ Simpson's Trial that I finally start remembering something. I wondered why the news was showing a white SUV driving down the highway, why they weren't talking about anything else, and can we please switch it to Nickelodeon now? I remember having a brief discussion in my third grade class, and Mrs. McLemore giving us a very basic description of the purpose of a jury, and then we got to play the jury and determine if we thought he was guilty or not. (Times were very different then - no third grade teacher could get away with discussing a murder trial with her students now.)

I remember learning what impeachment meant in fifth grade, and how it didn't necessarily mean that the president was removed from office, and that until now Andrew Johnson was the only president that had been impeached.

I remember Columbine. I wrote a note to my 7th grade counselor after it happened because a boy in my class thought that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had the right idea. "People here don't understand people like me, and they should be shot." His name was Allen. I was afraid of him after that day.

I remember 9/11. I remember the principal asking teachers to turn on their televisions and that there would be no morning announcements. I remember my choir director saying, "Nothing is more important than our upcoming concert." I remember going to second period, Sophomore English, and being told that class was meeting in the library. I remember watching the big screen TV and wondering why we were watching a movie instead of learning. I remember realizing with horror (and a little embarrassment) that it wasn't a movie. I remember that some students were in a panic because they thought our tiny town would be hit soon too - with a nuclear plant just 10 miles away, people tended to be on edge. I don't remember much else. I probably asked Dad if we were safe when he got home, if he got home before I went to bed. Fall is outage season, so he would have been working longer hours, and I'm sure the stress level was much higher that day than normal.

It's so strange to think that one day there will come a time when the people who don't remember such a traumatic incident will outnumber the people who do. But when I think about it, it's not so strange. Even my oldest nephew, who is about to be sixteen, most likely too young to remember it. The other two are far too young. A little sad maybe, that they don't have anything so unifying, but I suppose that they will eventually. Hopefully it will be something more positive.

I wonder if my son will ask me if I remember 9/11, or anything else from this list for that matter. Will stare at me with the look of someone trying so desperately to put himself in my shoes so he can experience what I experienced, just like I did when I asked my parents if they remembered the Kennedy assassination, or Woodstock? And what major event is going to happen in his lifetime that will affect him and everyone around him so greatly?

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