(Plinky prompt: What are the 3 most significant historic events that have occurred in your lifetime?)
1) The 1969 Apollo landing. I was six, and what I remember was hardly being able to keep my eyes open, but gamely being there for it. I was on the fold-out couch in the living room, and had to be awoken when it got near. So I remember that small step for man being taken while I was in the unpleasant why-am-I-up? and why-am-I-doing-this? state of having pulled an all-nighter or getting up at an hour before oh-dawn-thirty for May Day to see the Morris dancers sing the sun up.
(I’d say something sententious involving the sunrise and celestial motifs, but then I’d have to slap myself.)
I did some quick Wikisearch, and found that it was at about 11-ish at night for me. I was allowed to stay up for New Year’s Eve, but I think this was different because of the anticipation involved. I did find myself crying; I think it may have been the first time I realized that there was something poignant about human history being made.
2) Right after I turned 27 in November of ’89, my world was small. I didn’t read the news, because it was depressing. I was an art major, and I admitted cheerfully that I was avoiding reality by reading science fiction. Then one night in the car, my husband turned to me, and casually asked, “So what do you make of all that stuff going on in Berlin?”
“What stuff going on in Berlin?” I asked innocently. I got myself a subscription to Newsweek the next day. Thus, the failure of totalitarian socialism marked the beginning of my understanding that I was forced to be a political animal. I realized that I *had* to start paying attention.
3) Just like everybody else over ten, 9/11. I was 38. Kid #2 and I were on our way to where I was teaching college. It was a horrible jolt when that plane crashed into Tower One. But I’d grown up knowing that planes hit skyscrapers; just ask the Empire State Building. Then the DJ came on again–and Kid #2, whom I’d thought oblivious in the back seat with his Game Boy, said “Ohhh shit.” I remember looking around at all the other cars on that stunning September morning, and the world driving by Johns Hopkins and the art museum looked just the same as it had 15 minutes ago.
About a half hour after that I was standing in front of my composition class at Morgan State. I had to be the grownup for a room full of terrified 18-year-old children. One young man said something bitter about how horrible it was to be stuck with Bush right then. I found myself digging within that amazing surge of patriotism those planes dredged out of most of us, and said, “He may be an asshole, but right now, he’s *our* asshole, and right now is when we all have to stick together.”
Right now I’m 48, and it looks as if we’re about to be plunged into an era of totalitarian conservatism. I feel powerless, and afraid–but deep down hopeful, because I know that our intellects can even break us out of our gravity well, that freedom chips and chips away against repression–and that when it all comes down to it, nothing is monolithic, and people find their bravery despite their fear.