As we approach the end of the year our minds wander to past years and the events, both good and bad, that are burned in our minds. My parents could remember in great detail where they were on December 7,1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. My mother actually carved the date on the inside of her wooden sewing box that I still have today.
For me November has the strongest memory and it dates back 54 years to November 22, 1963. I was a senior in high school when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.
I don’t remember what class I was in at the time, but the Principal, Fr. Carr, came on the PA system to announce that the President had been shot and that was all that was known at the time. A little later the next announcement was from the radio broadcast saying that President Kennedy had died. To us the whole situation was inconceivable. It just couldn’t happen here in the United States. Well it did and every November 22nd I think back on those dark days.
Our modern social media has really changed things. I have been in touch with some of my classmates from McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York through Facebook and we shared memories of that horrific day.
Another day I’ll never forget was the day that Princess Diana was killed at 12:23 am in a car accident in Paris, France on Sunday August 31, 1997. According to Pacific Daylight Time she was pronounced dead at 4:23 pm PDT on Saturday August 30, 1997. My wife and I spent the day at the coast and as usual I tried to get my perfect sunset picture over the ocean near Florence. We were traveling back and it had already gotten dark. We had the car radio on, but the reception faded in and out so we couldn’t hear much. We did here a few words of the network news which said something about Princes Diana and then a car accident. It was so garbled we turned the radio off. I think we were approaching Venetta when we turned the radio back on and finally heard the news broadcast explaining that Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris as the limo driver attempted to outrun a parade of Paparazzi that chased them. It was very hard to believe that it was even possible and that it really happened.
In a previous column I related how I found out about the terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001 (9-11) and that it’s a moment I’ll never forget. I was working for both a television and a radio station here in Eugene. I was in my home office preparing my morning radio weather forecast at about 6:00 am when, as usual, I turned on the little TV over my desk to see what the current weather looked like from our station’s tower camera. Instead of the local news there was a live picture of the Twin Towers burning. It looked just like a scene from an action/adventure movie. The person reporting said they would have the videotape rewound shortly. They played the tape and it showed the second plane approach and crash into the second tower. Again,a scene that was so unbelievable.
Another event that I’ll never forget was the Indonesian tsunami that followed a large earthquake. The earthquake’s epicenter was in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia and struck at 00:58:53 UTC. The quake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis that killed 230,000-280,000 people in 14 countries. The tsunamis inundated coastal communities with waves up to 100 ft. high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. What was I doing when I heard about it? My wife and I were on the way to Rochester, New York for my Father-in-law’s funeral. We heard about it first at the Portland airport and then had to wait until we got to Chicago to get more information. It took days before the unbelievable death toll numbers emerged.
I’m sure you have moments like these that are burned forever in your memory. They could be from these events I have discussed or other events that had an impact on your life. I’d like to hear your story. Please feel free to add your story to the comments section at the end of this article.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].