Defining Dates

No real topic this week, just some thoughts on defining moments, or perhaps memorable moments. It seems that every generation has one or more. I’m going to start with one or two well before my time and then mention several others within my lifetime.

December 7th, 1941“A day that shall live in infamy.” We’re quickly losing the generation that remembers this day as actual history and the speech by FDR the next day that followed. But it set the US on a course in history where we eventually became the sole remaining superpower.  Of course too, we remember the Western version of events, the only real knowledge most of my readers would have of the Japanese point of view would come from the movie Tora, Tora Tora.

June 6th, 1944 – D-Day“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.” Again, a day that helped shape a nation and one we are starting to remember only from oral or written history as those who were there pass on.  This past summer I had the honor of visiting Arromanches, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, and walking among the stones of the fallen on the bluff overlooking the beaches. A very somber memory for me. What I have learned later in life is that as horrible as the losses were on the Western Front, it pales in comparison to the sacrifices made on the Eastern Front.  For those who have not read up on the battles between the Soviets and the Nazis, I recommend you do. The scale and scope of the front is incredible. We lost approximately 400,000 soldiers in WWII. The Soviets, depending on the counts, anywhere from 6-8 million military causalities (and millions more civilian casualties).

November 22, 1963 – My dad would tell me he remembered exactly where he was when this happened, history class. Some say a generation died that day.

July 21st, 1969 – This sort of bookmarks the end of the Kennedy dream. Neil Armstrong utters the historic words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Technically I was alive and conscious for this momentous event, but I have no memory of it.

January 28th, 1986 – Challenger Disaster. I found about this in a less than ideal way. I was returning to my dorm room in college to hear a floormate shouting, “Man, I can’t wait to see the full color photographs in the USA Today tomorrow.” Yeah, he had no class. This event forever reminded us that space travel had NOT been made routine.

November 9th, 1989 – Unlike most of the other events that marked my life, this one was a joyous one. For weeks my housemate and I had been following the events in Eastern Europe. We were watching events that we never thought would happen in our lifetime. But even then, I don’t think either of us dreamt that we’d soon be watching men with sledgehammers on top of the wall and them not only NOT being shot at, but being cheered on. I am always reminded of Tom Brokaw’s broadcast that night and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. I was sitting at my desk at my computer, listening to the TV and looking out the window when I saw my housemate came home. I literally jumped on the desk and opened the window to shout, “The wall is down! The fucking wall is down!”

December 31st, 1999 – Technically NOT the end of the millennium, but who cares about that detail; all the digits were changing. But, I and others had work to do. We setup a command center in the meeting room with the fireplace at “the Mansion” we worked in and monitored our servers. Between monitoring we watched The Matrix and Enemy of the State (which still has one of the best exchanges of all time: “I blew up the building.” “Why?” “Because you made a phone call.”) Despite working (and having to ask two coworkers to be AT our data centers, one in NYC and the other outside of DC) it was actually a wonderful time. Honestly, one of the more fun New Year’s Eve I’ve had.

9/11 – A date that unfortunately needs no year. My best friend was murdered that day.

November 4, 2008 – I had made sure to be home in NY in the morning to vote before heading to my apartment/job just outside of DC.  I took the train down and had made it back to my apartment around 9:00 PM when I turned on the TV to follow the results. I was tired, it was late, but crowds were gathering outside the White House to celebrate. I debated, but realized it was a once in a lifetime experience and headed back into DC and joined them until about 1:30 AM. I even called my boss and told him I’d be late for work the next day.  I finally started to drive home and ended up picking up some folks in their 20s that had been stranded due to lack of mass-transit (and no cab was willing to pick them up at a random street corner) and taking them back to Alexandria.

There’s many personal dates that have special meaning to me, 1996-08-25, 2000-04-10, 2003-04-26, 2015-07-10 and others, but I wanted focus on ones where many of us can share common bonds and that had an impact on a nation or at least a large part of it.

What dates do YOU recall and why.

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