Where Were You?

Do you remember where you were on this date back in 2001?

For my generation, yes I am a baby boomer, we can give you that answer in a nanosecond. After we share our stories from that day, someone will begin the cascade of questions and stories about other major events that happened in their life time. My guess is many of us talked about some of those events today. Granted, some events are more memorable than others, but still worth a mention.

I wasn’t old enough to remember this personally, but my cousin Donna certainly did! She would talk about the time Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show often. As she talked, she would get all dreamy-eyed and start that swaying back and forth movement.  The year was 1956. The same year Dick Clark appeared on American Bandstand for the first time. As I think about this, I gotta say I’d give them both a 98 because they had a great beat and were easy to dance to!

The Barbie doll debuted in 1959. The doll world was changed forever. Personally, this was my first lesson about knock offs. I’ll never forget the first time I played dolls with my neighbor, Ellen. My “Barbie” was the size of an Amazon woman next to her little petite real deal doll. Oh…the panic I felt when I tried to put Ellen’s Barbie’s shoes on my doll–that little plastic slip on heel fell apart in my hands.

Now, 1960, was a very important year for my future even if I was oblivious to it at the time. For the first time, the “Pill” was available to the general public. What would this decade be without this type of birth control?

In the winter of 1961, I remember sitting around our kitchen table watching a chimpanzee blast into space. In the spring of that year, Alan Shepard was the first American in space while all the newscasters talked about being in the space race with Russia. This flight would be followed by John Glenn in 1962. He who would be the first American to orbit the earth.

All these events pale in comparison to the memories I have for November 22, 1963. I was sitting in Mrs. Emerson’s fifth-grade classroom.  We had just come back from lunch. There was a knock on the door. The person at the door told our teacher that President Kennedy had been shot. This was followed by the knock a few minutes later when we would learn he had died. On that Friday, our school was quietly dismissed. We all went home where we and our families mourned while as a nation, we mourned together. It was a surreal time. There was a new feeling just under the surface. Looking back it reminds me of a scene out of those early sci-fi movies where the nice and familiar character subtly but steadily morphs into its new scary self.

The Beatles appeared for the first time on Ed Sullivan in 1964. This was the year our country began to work on equality with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, in my opinion, The Beatles made a bigger impact on the future of our world than that historical and promising piece of legislation.

In the spring of 1968, I was shopping at J.C. Penney’s in downtown Waterloo. While walking up the stairs to the second floor, I heard shouts from below me saying that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I was so shocked and sad. He had given my young heart hope. But, Waterloo was known for its racial conflicts and this spelled trouble to me. I had a long walk home and it was getting late. Being downtown was probably not the best place for me. Later that same year, I was reading in my upstairs room when I heard Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated in California. Our world was changing faster than ever. To me, it did not feel like we were heading in a positive direction.

The summer of 1969 saw the moon landing and Woodstock. I was questioning everything and wondering what my future would hold. I was beginning to think nothing was ever going to happen for me. An Iowa version of Woodstock would happen that next summer, July 1970, and something had finally started to happen for me. I was starting my first real job. I would spend the afternoons of my senior year as a receptionist at Drs. Carl Hanson and Richard Mitchell’s office.

The 70’s brought more unease. Watergate and the attempted coverup beginning in 1972. Nixon resigning in 1974 as we watched the pain and shame reflected on him and unfairly onto his innocent family. Three Mile Island would begin a melt down in 1979, casting doubt on the future of nuclear power.

In 1981 I watched and celebrated Charles and Diana’s wedding, a fairy tale comes true in my young romantic mind. Later that same year, I was in the CCU at St. Francis Hospital, struggling to complete EKGs where I saw the news bulletin announcing President Reagan had been shot. I struggled because it was the day after a night of bowling with co-workers, a night that was filled with much more drinking than bowling. My hung over self became much more melancholy as I watched the scenes and the list of dead and wounded unfold before me.

In 1986 I was working at Children’s Hospital in Denver, covering the inpatient studies. I was walking into one of the rooms on the fourth floor when I noticed everyone in the room was glued to the television. This was the first time I became aware of being aware of people’s attention being so focused on news coverage. I learned in those few minutes that this is never ever a good sign. The screen showed a clear blue sky–the Challenger had just lifted off–and exploded. Gasps followed by silence followed by more silence. We were silent for a very long time.

1995 was the year of the O.J. Simpson trial. We all followed the drama whether we admitted it or not. When the jury came back, we all went to a central area at the hospital to hear the outcome. As I looked around at the people I had worked with for many years, I realized we had arranged ourselves in the very large room in a very distinct manner. I found I was encircled with my Caucasian co-workers while my co-workers of color were facing me across the room. The room was tense as the verdict was read. As not guilty was announced, we became even more divided–rejoicing on one side–bewilderment on the other. That bewilderment stayed with me for some time. I must admit, it remains today.

We just passed the anniversary of Diana’s death in 1997. We were on our way home from the Tetons then–a journey we repeated nearly to the day this year.

In 1999 we were in Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is beautiful. Big Bend is in the middle of nowhere. Communication is nil. On a day when the temperature was 110 degrees, a woman came up to me as we sat outside our RV. We were outside because the AC in our trailer was not working well. She said she noticed our Colorado plates and wondered if we had heard the news. We said no. We had not heard any news for a week. She then told us what she knew of the events unfolding at Columbine High School–a school where many of our friend’s kids attended. We had no way to contact anyone. All we could do was pray and cry for all involved.

Did any of my memories bring back any for you?

Anniversary days like today are painful. I am thankful that these dates are common for many of us and we can use them as times to reflect back while helping each other renew our hope for the future.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.








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