November 23, 2008

What Do You Remember First?

I have been thinking recently about what we all remember earliest in terms of national or international events. Not just childhood memories, but things others would remember as well. And not based on some timeline in a book or on a website, but actual memories one would have.

For me it is the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. I remember sitting in my second grade class and our teacher, Mrs. Headley telling us the news. I do not remember much else about about Mrs. Headley.

I do not know why this sticks in my memory. Nothing on the early space flights, nothing with Cuba in the news, nothing about the Cold War, nothing sports related predates this memory. This is the one rooted in my mind.

I remember watching scenes on TV: coverage from Andrews AFB when they brought the body back to DC with Jackie still in the bloodstained suit; the funeral procession, watching the horse walk down the street with the boots backwards in the stirrups, watching JFK Jr., even younger than me, standing there saluting his father's coffin on the horse drawn carriage. I remember how upset the adults around me were.

It had quite an impact to visit the The Sixth Floor Museum 5 years ago when we moved to Dallas, to see events in a museum that I had personal memories of as a child. However, it was an event that I remember with sadness, but without any political or societal ramifications. I understood the occurrence, but not the event that happened.

I cannot say how this shaped my thinking or worldview, I was 7 at the time. My worldview centered around getting out of school at 3pm, summer vacation, ice cream and candy. But it sticks with me, and I review it in my mind from time to time. Especially around this time of year. Hard to believe it was 45 years ago that this happened in the city I now live next to.


Greg said...

Since I wasn't yet born when Kennedy was assassinated (sorry, Andy!), that one's not a possibility for me. What I do remember is something profoundly more important: 16 August, 1077. The Day That Elvis Died.

Okay, maybe not profoundly more important than the death of a president, but it is the first time I remember people gathering around the radio and television to hear the latest. And even as a seven year old, I realized something big had happened, even if I had no idea who this Elvis Presley guy was.

Interesting what does and does not make an impression on our young-at-the-time minds.

Laurie M. said...

Hmmmm, big news events, from my childhood?? I was in-utero when John Kennedy was assassinated - no recollection there. I remember duck and cover drills when the air raid sirens would go off, which would have been in the the very early 70's. I remember a moon landing, the Sylmar earthquake in 1972 (I think), the Jonestown mass-suicide. I also remember Elvis' death, because my older sister was devastated. The two that really stand out for me came later: when Ronald Reagan was shot, because I was in high school by then and the teacher made an announcement; and he was a well-loved man; and even later, when the space shuttle, Challenger(?), exploded on take-off. I was in college then and sat in a little restaurant watching the video and crying. All those things seem to pale, however, after 9/11, which I spent with a van-full of strangers, on the first day of a ridiculous job decorating model homes, with people who got tired of hearing the news and went back to listening to the Bob & Tom radio show. Aren't you glad you asked?

Anonymous said...

I think JFKs assassination is my earliest memory of an historic event too, Andy.

Troy said...

I would have to say the memory that sticks in my mind the most is when the space shuttle Challenger blew up. I remember sitting in my 7th grade science class when the teacher made the announcement, and some jerk next to me made a comment about being glad there was one less teacher. That will always be in my memory.