Every generation has a list of things they share as a collective body. I think it's important to earmark those things. Here is my short list:
The Challenger Explosion: I was in seventh grade watching the shuttle launch in our school library when the crew of the Challenger met their fate. My school's librarian had a panic attack (but I didn't know what that was then). I remember that she was so excited to have us there to watch the launch and after the explosion fell to her knees in tears. I also remember thinking it wasn't real. That moment in time is ingrained in my mind. I will never forget it or how the news kept playing the explosion over and over again. With the recent 20th anniversary of "The Challenger Tragedy" and The Columbia Shuttle explosion of 2003 fresh on our minds (especially in Houston), we will never forget.
Nelson Mandela's Release from Prison: Feb. 11th 1990.
This was HUGE! Consider the story, a man imprisoned for 27 years just because he fought for basic human rights. A few years later, this man rose to become the President of the country that imprisoned him for so long. You can't write anything better than that. I'm particularly proud of the effect African-Americans had by pressuring South Africa on President Mandela's behalf.
*I got to meet Mr. Mandela while in college. I was floored and for the first time in my life rendered speechless in his presence. My Public Policy school was renamed for Mr. Mandela and he visited the university. It is now The Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy (Southern University-Baton Rouge, LA.)
9/11: I was pregnant on September 11th, 2001. I spent the first part of that day with morning-sickness. I had just laid down to try and settle my stomach when my husband called and asked me to watch a freak accident in New York. It was then being reported that a plane mistakenly hit one of the twin towers. I watched the second plane hit...and everything was a blur from there. I couldn't believe it when the towers came down. Like everyone I had a mix of emotions. You would think that by now we would have gotten the person at the top of the organization responsible. Instead we have a vendetta war on a man who no one can prove has any ties and Osama Bin Laden is roaming free. Where's the justice in that? It will be a proud day when something goes up in the buildings place.
Operation Iraqi Freedom- When the U.S. Forces gave Saddam Hussein a timeline to get out of his own country, I felt uneasy about it but I also felt that he should probably find the closest exit. Morally I couldn't justify war without exhausting any preventative measure, even then. Still, I fought my gut feelings and supported my President because that, to me, is what a patriot should do....at least to an extent. You have no greater enemy than the son of a man who you tried to kill (that's something I learned from watching The Godfather). With that in mind, Saddam should have fled his country when Bush II was elected. The writing was on the wall.
Think back to that time, who didn't want a pound of flesh? I'll be the first Moderate Democrat to admit that I did. Only problem is that I wanted a pound of flesh from Osama Bin Laden, not anyone else who didn't have a hand in 9/11. Politics aside, what will stick out in my memory forever is the coverage of the first hours of this war. My husband and I stayed up late to watch CNN and it all had the feel of a Hollywood production more than a war. I remember pacing the floor, praying for the safety of our soldiers and a quick end to the war. I also prayed that the man in charge of my country was right, when I didn't believe he was. Finally, I prayed for the safety of innocent people who always seem to die in wars.
Hurricane Katrina-This is especially close to me because it literally hit home. My family lives in Baton rouge, LA. and at the time of the hurricane my brother, James, was a student at Dillard University in New Orleans. My family was lucky that my brother left before the storm hit but a lot of people in my state (along with Mississippi and Alabama) were very unlucky. I've traveled quite a bit and New Orleans is still my favorite city in the world. Watching the events unfold on TV, I was ashamed of my country. It was a complete breakdown of governmental policy (and I should know about that), made worse by this country's underlying unwillingness to deal with our racial past (and present). New Orleans is one of the greatest cities in the world and now it is being debated whether is should even be rebuilt. Perhaps the rest of the United States doesn't get this but without the port of New Orleans the United States is cut off from half the world. It saddens me that our country still underestimates the importance of the port of New Orleans to the rest of the nation. Now some people say just rebuild the industrial areas. To that I say, what about the people? Are some Americans deserving of more than others? (I know that's a silly question coming from a black lady...but bear with me). If Los Angeles or New York were washed away, I seriously doubt that anyone would consider not rebuilding an option. So why is that on the table for New Orleans? Because it would be easier than admitting how we failed our countrymen and women. New Orleaneans can't even get jobs rebuilding their city. Unlike most people I don’t blame the President, the Governor, or Mayor of New Orleans. Natural Disasters happen and none of them could have prevented it. FEMA however could have prevented the situation from becoming so horrible. I remember when FEMA was a premiere department; when they ran like clockwork. How sad it is that the clock stopped on New Orleans.
So many other things could have been on this list (Examples: The Rodney King trial, Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings, O.J. Simpson Trial, Clinton's "Impeachment", Florida's hanging "Chad’s" etc. I remember all of those....they just aren't as important to me as the ones on my list). More lists to come...