HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU HAVE BURNED INTO YOUR MEMORY?


Do you remember anything specific that happened in your first grade class? I can bring to mind two such incidents.  The first one happened in the winter.  I learned the hard way not to put my tongue on the metal step railing into the school.  An adult had to bring out warn water and set me free. The building is still there 66 years later.  It has transformed into an apartment building.  The high school building next to it is now an elderly middle school.  But that piece of history is not wnat I want to talk about. It is rather the second event which occured in April of that year.

On April 12, 1945 my first grade class room, was coloring while our teacher was called out ot the room. She returned and stood at the head of the class.  She had tears in her eyes and was crying.  As you might guess, this unsettled me and my classmates as it went on for perhaps 1 or 2 minutes. When she finally spoke, her voice was halting and shaking. She told us, after several tries, that our president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just died. First graders can not fathom the import of wars or crises unless they directly effect them.  What I vividly remember from that day is that I grew frightened even when I did not fully understand.  It was the actions of that solid rock, my first grade teacher, a major portion of my world. For her, Roosevelt was a strong and brave father figure, the one who would keep her safe in time of war.  Even my parents who were definitely Republicans, were similaarly disturbed.

There are only a few world events which become engraved in our memories.  It depends on your age at the time, and your upbringing about what is important. Such memories are a different matter of degree from an individual event’s importance. No one else cared about my tongue problem, except for a chuckle if they found out.  In contrast, everyone, at that time, and for various reasons both good and bad, cared about the passing of Roosevelt.

My other world events were similar. The next one was in October, 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the naval Blockade. What blew my mind and made me very afraid for my wife, daughter, {and unborn second and third children} was omimously clear. It was the closest the world has yet come to nuclear war.

If you did not grow up during the era of mutual assured destruction by nuclear war,the Cold War is hard to completely explain. For example, at school we had nuclear attack drills.  We had to get under our desks during the drills. What good that would have done (nothing) is certainly obvious today, but I’m sure it made the authorities happy to be taking some kind of action, at least. We also were all blood typed and given various colored tags to wear.  Mine was blue with white letters for O neg d- c.-.  The older high school students soon were trading their blood tags as signs of goiing steady. If was better even than trading class rings.

With this background, we lived out our lives.  I was attending seminary and working part time at a flooring store in downtown Springfield, Ohio. Springfield is under major commercial flight lanes and near several Air Force bases.  There were always contrails visible in the sky, even often at night.  It never ended during the day.

This day it was about 12:30 PM. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The streets were crowded, but the skies were entirely empty and quiet.  Nothing flying was visible.  I had a little military training, and had been following the news of the Cuban Blackade and Kennedy’s warning to the USSR, The sudden absence of the planes overhead was ominous. I was truly scared, and headed home rather than work. We have learned over time what actually happened then.  The nearby USAF Strategic Air Command bombers had seen sent to their “fail-safe” points before they could then proceed, if necessary, to attack. Other planes were temporaily rerouted or grounded. 

In an interview some years ago, the commander of one of the USSR missle submarines off Cuban waters indicated in an interview that they came within ten minutes of launching their missiles against the USA before the USSR blinked and turned their ships around. I had real reason for fear.

Event number three had some similarities to event number one. Before our present ability to be almost instantly aware of and even see images as they happen, we were either physically present at an event, or we heard of it over the radio, or less swiftly on TV.  TV, then, could not easily go live at other sites at the blink of an eye.  It took a little time.  Most of us first heard live news from our radios. On November 22, 1963 I was in the parking lot of a McDonald’s finishing a hamburger.  The radio was on, and an announcer broke into the music to announce that President Kennedy had just be shot at in Dallas, TX. Swiftly the announcement changed to he had been shot, and the motorcade was racing to a hospital. I became choked up, and immediately started the car and began to drive home.  I had to get home. Soon afterward, by then watching television, his death was announced. November 22, 1963 is a day those of us who heard it will never forget.  The images of that time, including the later funeral procession and service are seared in my mind.

rLee Harvey Oswald was captured and taken to jail.  We were watching television when Jack Ruby shot Oawald at the police station. This is my only time seeing someone whose name I knew fatally shot in real time. Replays of the assassination shots were sickening.

My last event, so far, was on 9-11-2001, a date I share with most of you who are over the age of 16 or 17. Today as I write this the TV is recounting in great detail the events and history leading up to this terrorist attack. In about 15 years, over half of the world’s population will know this date the way I knew WW 1, as a date in history. This is the way of memories.

On this date, I was training a salesman in an Ohio township department of public works facility on the shores of Lake Erie.  While talking with the DPW head, we soon noted that all the workers except us were in a room watching TV. This was not common, and we three directly joined them.  A plane had hit one of the Twin Towers.  Shortly after we joined the audience, we all saw the second plane plow into the second tower. I knew someone wanted to bring them down.  The war against terrorists had begun for all Americans. Uncertain where I was that day, my wife and all three children seperately called my cell phone to make sure I was O.K., and not in New York City.

Many of you will have vivid memories for example, of the space shuttle lost on reentry.  You probably also have 9-11 seared in your memories. 

 What memories will never leave your memory? Drop me a comment.

Fr. Orthohippo

written 9-11-2011

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About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
This entry was posted in history, History & eyeball remembrances, musings, Personal, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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