Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Remember Where I Was

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “ touch the face of God.”

                                                         Ronald Reagan speaking to the nation

                                                         January 28, 1986

Funny how a few words can bring back a flood of memories.  I am very much a memory driven person, as you might have guessed if you have been hangin’ around a bit. I love memories. I love celebrating memories. I love thinking about memories. It is amazing that I don’t run smack dab into more things because I am busy looking behind me at the memories.

I think that we all have some collective memories that we pull out together at times. We say to each other, “I remember that. I remember where I was.” They make us feel connected to one another in an age where we feel increasingly disconnected. Do you do that? I certainly do.

I don’t really remember where I was when JFK was shot, I was only three after all, but I do have a vague memory of watching his funeral on the black and white TV at my Amsler grandparents house. That is the first conscious collective memory that I have, and I am not even sure it is correct. I was young. And I think that when we are very young, even into teens and a bit beyond, we don’t really remember those collective memories very well. We are still looking ahead at our own lives. We are deep into our own immortality. Those kinds of things don’t really connect with us in the way that they do when we get just a bit older. When we have a spouse, a home, children, a job. When we truly become adults.

I know this is true for myself. I know that there were large historical events that played out on the national and international stage before I got to a certain age: the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Kent State shootings (I live 20 minutes from the campus), Tiananmen Square, Mt. St. Helens eruption and so many more. It just feels like, up until the Challenger Disaster, I didn’t seem to pay that much attention.

I remember January 28, 1986 because that day I had just returned from a visit to the OB doc and had heard the baby’s heart beat for the first time (about 10 weeks). I had called Mimi when I got home to tell her that all was OK (which wasn’t true, but I didn’t know it at the time). We chatted and watched the lift off…and then that horrible moment 73 seconds into the flight. I remember looking at the TV screen and thinking that something didn’t look right. But your mind doesn’t know how to process the information. You can’t possibly imagine that the shuttle has blown up in front of your eyes. This day is intimately tied, in my mind at least, with having a miscarriage not quite two weeks later. Funny how the memories are intertwined.

I remember where I was and what I was doing for the burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX because I had lived not far from there and new where the compound was located.

I remember Oklahoma City. I remember worrying about The Chef’s parents who live in that area. Was her dad OK?

I remember 9/11. I remember because I had called my cousin Heather to sing her Happy Birthday and she told me to shut up and turn on the TV. She tells me to shut up rather frequently I have to say but the TV part was a new feature. I remember the inability to grasp the fact that those were big, really big, planes that were flying into the towers. The day was filled with worrying about Pilot Man and where he was in his flight schedule (no where near NYC thank goodness.), in worrying about my brother-in-law who was often in the WTC (and was at the time of the planes hitting the buildings just getting ready to go to a meeting there).

I think that we think about, rehash, relive these collective memories because they make us feel close to one another and connected in a way that we are not. We want to feel close to others when outside events, over which we have no control, rock the world in which we live. The reliving of collective memories help us to work through the pain and the uncertainty and tell us that we are not alone.


  1. So true! I can remember where I was for a few of those events, but like you... I was but a wee tot when JFK was shot. The Reagan quote is one of my very favorites, ever. I think it's actually spoken on a Kenny G Christmas CD I have on the special "Auld Lang Syne" version. Very touching! -Tammy

  2. I remember those events too. I think the Challenger accident and 9/11 affected me the most.

  3. On the day the shuttle went down, I was in art class working with air brushes. One guy had head phones on to a radio station and told us what had happened.
    9/11 - wow that was something else. I was at work. Almost everyone kind of left their desks and watched the big screen tv in the office basement for a long time watching it all unfold. At lunch time one programmer came out of his office and told us that on the way in he had heard that a small plane had hit one of the towers... Um yeah - he was behind the times... I went home and hugged my kids hard.

  4. Oh I remember that day well too. We lived in Florida at the time - about an hour or so away from the Cape. My sister was in labor with her youngest son. Instead of going outside to see the launch,I was by the phone waiting for the good news of his birth. My husband called and said the shuttle blew. I remember I just didn't believe him. We had so many successful shuttle launches that it didn't seem possible. Such a sad/glad day. My nephew safely came into this world as others were leaving.


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