Larry Banman: Trips down memory lane don’t always have a destination
July 23, 2009
The first reunion my high school class had was held at the five-year mark. I can remember thinking about how much time had passed and how much people had changed (or not changed). Hairlines were already starting to recede and waistlines were already starting to expand. I can also remember conversations about how long it had been since high school graduation.
This past Tuesday (July 20) marked the 40th anniversary of the historic landing on the moon by American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. For you trivia buffs, Michael Collins was the name of the astronaut who circled the moon while his comrades etched themselves into the collective consciousness of the entire world. I’ve always wondered what it was like to be so close to the action and, figuratively, so far away. The name of the lunar module was the Eagle, from which we likely get the popular catch phrase, “The Eagle has landed.”
The majority of my friends were alive when the Eagle landed. Without exception, every person I ask remembers exactly where they were on that third Sunday in July 1969. Most of us remember watching the grainy images of Armstrong descending the ladder and then bounding about on the surface of the moon. I recently read that Armstrong thought their chances of a successful return from the surface of the moon was 50/50, at best. That is a lot of weight to bear, even with the reduced gravitational pull on the moon. I also learned that the distance from the bottom step of the Eagle to the moon’s surface was over three feet. I can feel a muscle pull just thinking about that step. Armstrong’s “one small step for man” was a lot further than I thought.
In our lives, there are certain significant events that so sear our consciousness that we can remember what we were doing at the exact moment we heard the news of that event. Sometimes, an event like the assassination of President John Kennedy is so sudden and shocking that it completely rattles our daily existence. The only thing I remember about third grade is when the principal came to our classroom to deliver a message to our combination class of third and fourth graders. The teacher then relayed that our president had been shot in Texas. I had never been to Texas but had seen plenty of Westerns. In my mind, I pictured some desperado hiding along a desolate stretch of road. I didn’t really understand the significance of the event until I went home to find my mom doing the dishes, with tears streaming down her cheeks. I later learned that, with the Cuban missile crisis still fresh in peoples’ minds, there was a real fear of invasion (we were in the midst of the Cold War)
There are other events that certainly gripped the nation. My folks remember where they were when they heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sports fans probably remember where they were Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record (1974) and when Secretariat won the Triple Crown in horse racing (1973). In more recent history, few can probably forget the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when al-Qaeda coordinated a series of suicide attacks upon the United States. Few can forget that mixture of emotions that welled up in us all that day and throughout the days that followed.
As news gathering and transmission has become more diversified, those events that have the potential to transfix a nation are reported almost instantaneously. With access to the Internet, social networking sites, Twitter, phone cameras, we no longer have to wait for the news to be fed to us by CBS, NBC and ABC. In the heyday of mainstream media, somebody was assigned to go get the story. Now, stories and pictures are being transmitted before that somebody can hit the door. Gone are the days when we have to sit down to the 6 o’clock news to find out what happened during the day.
I wonder if, in 40 years, people will still recollect where they were when they learned they had just lost tens of thousands in home equity back in 2008/2009 and when their 401 (k) accounts became 4.01 (k) accounts. I wonder if it will be important to people to know where they were when the Cubs finally win their next World Series. I wonder how much more the world will have changed by that time.