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There are moments in our lives when we will never forget where we were or what we were doing.
Jan. 28, 1986, was a snow day. I was home from school; my mom was off work. We were competing against one another guessing prices while watching “The Price is Right.”
The show was interrupted to announce the launch of Space Shuttle Challenger.
We had been studying space exploration and closely watching the lead-up to this launch in school. Had we been in class that day, every TV would have likely been tuned in as the world prepared to send off Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space.
But it was not the type of goodbye anyone expected. Just a little more than a minute after takeoff, Challenger exploded killing all seven on board. I still vividly remember the image as pieces clouded in smoke tumbled back toward the earth.
I had dozed off while watching television on Aug. 2, 1990. I was awoken by a phone call from my then-boyfriend. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I fell asleep,” I responded.
“Well, while you were sleeping, America went to war,” he retorted.
I scrambled to sit up and peered at the television; the Persian Gulf War had begun.
As I followed the events in the news, my family said goodbye to two uncles who headed off to war—one to the Gulf, the other to training in California.
The first Gulf War was the first conflict my generation had known. We donned yellow ribbons. We flew American flags. We waved goodbye to soldiers and hugged them tightly when they came home.
We carried flags and balloons when one of my uncles, who was among the first ground troops to see combat in the Gulf region, returned home.
I watched one afternoon as he practically leapt from our parked car when a nearby construction worker activated a nail gun. He’s never truly recovered from those moments in world history.
On April 19, 1995, I was on my way to check my mail in college when I noticed classmates gathered around a television. Terror had come home. We watched, mouths agape, as the devastation was revealed from the Oklahoma City bombing. We couldn’t believe the number that had died, especially children, yet little did we know how small the toll would be compared to the next major attack on American soil.
I was working in the newsroom of a community newspaper in Kentucky on Sept. 11, 2001, when television first revealed the gaping hole in the side of one of the World Trade Center towers. We were gathered around as the second plane approached, crashing into a ball of flames into the second.
All of our lives were forever changed that day. I don’t have to tell you about it. You were all there. We all remember.
This Sunday evening, May 1, 2011, a CNN news alert flashed across my iPad announcing terrorist and Al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, had been killed by American forces.
I watched as the nation rejoiced. I listened intently to the president’s words. I devoured newscasts and read pages and pages of reports on the Internet.
And part of me worried.
My generation has already witnessed so much, and frankly, I’m tired of having memories marked by tragedy.
So I put my faith in the U.S. armed forces, the brave men and women who put their lives on the line day in and day out, to give all of us a sense of security.
We must remember they are the ones—the 18-year-olds fresh out of high school, together with grown men and women who’ve gone to battle too many times already—who brought about this latest moment in American history.
Thank them all; it’s the least we can do.