Extra! Extra! Reflect All About It

The headlines. They can grab us, they can stir us, they can stick with us long after their visit.

This week’s Kuhnspration challenge asked the question – what headline or headlines in your youth left the greatest impression on you as a kid and what were your thoughts about it?

Did you join me for that trek down memory lane (which I’m sad to say feels longer and longer every year, probably because it gets longer and longer!) For me, one memory especially stands out…

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Challenger. The space shuttle was scheduled to make its launch, and students and their teachers were watching it in schools across the country. I, however, was in the library (or what our school called the media center). I was a sophomore in high school and a few of us had gathered around to watch it on the TVs wheeled into the center. The mood quickly changed as awe and wonder transitioned into confusion and fear. We weren’t quite sure what we were watching, and soon the TV newscasters and eventually NASA spokeperson confirmed what we had painfully concluded.

There had been a technical glitch and as a result of it, the Challenger exploded before our eyes for all to see. I imagine  for those watching it in person off the nearby space coast beaches as well as those in the television audience, it was a shock similar to that of families lining the streets of Dallas in fall 1963 as their President came to visit and a commotion left everyone confused, scared and eventually speechless. This is my Kennedy assassination moment. I can remember exactly where I was, the mood, the conversations and the fear and pain that hung heavily in the air. And I remember the school’s physics instructor, who I would have as a teacher a year later, starting blankly at the screen as he shared with those around him that he had in fact applied to be the first teacher aboard that shuttle. Whether or not he saw his own alternative future unfold before his eyes or not is something only he knew but I imagine the consequences would have weighed heavy on anyone who either applied for that special honor or grew up wanting to be an astronaut, not an unheard of ambition, especially for those of us who grew up in Florida.

I think for me it was the first time I realized, REALLY realized, that adults don’t always know what they’re doing. That is, the folks in charge – they seemed to know every move to make, every right word to say, and for once, I saw an uncertainty and vulnerability in these extremely smart people who just proved to me that yes, it is possible for them to make mistakes and some very serious ones, if they haven’t truly thought of everything. Also, up until then, space seemed like this friendly place that people traveled to – men landing on the moon, dogs and monkeys in space (and pigs, too – love those Muppets). In Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, people navigated around so easily. Surely sending up this space shuttle was not such a complex thing to carry out. And within a few minutes, we realized that there is still so much that we (the collective we) didn’t really know or understand. It was a daunting realization for me. I had come to take for granted that the adults in charge (of everything) had all things under control, but clearly there was room for error and that frightened me. (Did any of my peers have a similar epiphany during that time?)

There are other headlines that particularly stood out for me as a kid  – hearing at the bike stands at school as I was leaving to go home that afternoon that President Reagan had been shot and telling the kid ‘aw, you’re crazy…you’re just making that up” and then finding out that indeed, he knew what he was talking about. I also remember watching my usual classic TV shows on TBS after school one afternoon (why, Leave It to Beaver and The Munsters, of course!) and after the last show, I flipped over to one of the local affiliates for the evening news for my parents, and they were talking about the untimely death of a young comedian in what appeared to be a drug-related incident. It was John Belushi. And as the only kid I knew who had grown up watching Saturday Night Live since season one (yes, at the tender age of 5), I was immediately struck with sadness and confusion. How could someone so young, so funny and so vibrant be dead? No way, I thought. It can’t be. I was crushed. I proceeded to see as many Belushi movies as I could get my hands on at twelve years old via this new addition to the house we now had – something called Home Box Office, HBO. Hmm, I sure hope this channel makes it. So many great movies to watch, so little time…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the newsmakers and big headlines that really captured your attention, imagination or heart while growing up. Give us a little window into your thoughts at such a young, impressionable age. We want a peek!

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!
Chris

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