DayeTime: Experiencing history ('Where were you when ...')

What is history?

I remember when I was growing up hearing people talking about World War II, and even some who remembered World War I. I thought they had to be ancient because they were talking about things that happened “so long ago.”

World War II had ended less than 20 years ago at that time. World War I began less than 50 years ago.

The year was 1963. It was November 1963. It was Nov. 22, 1963.

Had one horrific event not occurred that day, it would be remembered as the day the Beatles’ first album was released in America.

Few people associate the Beatles with Nov. 22, 1963 due to three -- or was it four, or maybe five -- shots fired in Dallas.

That was 55 years ago. This year, that date fell on Thanksgiving Day.

The day John F. Kennedy was assassinated is one of those events that is a milestone in history. It has been called the day America lost its innocence.

It ended the “Happy Days” post-WWII era and ushered in the turbulent “age of Aquarius” anti-war and Civil Rights protests.

There are certain dates that most Americans recognize as historic markers. That day in Dallas is one. Others that come to mind are July 4, 1776; April 13, 1861 and April 14, 1865; Nov. 11, 1918; Dec. 7, 1941; Sept. 11, 2001.

History happens every day, so there are many more days when something important happened. However, there are only a few “where were you” days.

On Nov. 22, 1963 I was in 2nd grade music class at Rosedale Elementary in Austin, Texas.

It was the last class of the day because many of us were going to going to Bergstrom Air Force Base to see the President, who was flying in from Dallas as part of his tour of Texas.

Before the teacher could hand out the rhythm sticks, triangles and tambourines, Mrs. White -- the principal -- waddled in, adjusted her “granny” glasses, leaned over and whispered something in the teacher’s ear.

Her face fell and she spoke in a soft voice to tell us that school was being dismissed early, that our parents would be notified and that “something bad” had happened and the President would not be coming to Bergstrom.

My house was about four blocks up the street, so I walked home. Mama was crying in the living room. She said my father, an Air Force sergeant at Bergstrom, would not be home for awhile.

I found out years later that base personnel were kept on base while the Pentagon tried to sort through various intelligence reports that hinted that Cuba, Russia or other enemies of the nation could have been behind the assassination.

If that had been the case, there were weapons on the base that would have to be prepared for use against the responsible nation.

Daddy was told that in that event, it could be quite awhile before anybody went home.

Those around my age and older no doubt have their own “where were you when ...” story about Kennedy’s assassination.

Those of my parent’s generation surely remember what they were doing when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Many Americans can tell you what they were doing when they heard the first reports of a plane striking the World Trade Towers in New York.

Those born after 9/11/2001 who listen to these tales of “ancient history” will, unfortunately, some day have their own stories of a “date to remember” that has been indelibly written in the nation’s memory to mark another tragedy still yet to unfold.

That is the nature of history.


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