November a time for and of reflection
November is the month of Thanksgiving. It is also the month to reflect; a time we ponder moments cemented exactly where we were, sad, emotional, exciting, etched forever in our memories, reflecting on our human frailty, yet with the strength knowing life goes on and we have to look to the future.
Nov. 22, 1963
President Kennedy assassinated
Catholic School. Fifth grade. Sister Mary Edwards made the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. We went to church to pray. Images never to be forgotten include the scene on the plane where Lyndon Johnson sworn in, with Jacqueline Kennedy observing, still wearing her blood stained dress. John Jr. saluting as his father’s casket went by. President Kennedy was our leader, our President. Their family became our family.
July 16-21, 1969
Man lands on the moon
On July 16, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins boarded Apollo 11 and blasted into space, headed for the moon. Four days later, Armstrong took the first step and announced, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” With friends and family camping at Lake George, N.Y., we gathered around the campfire, looking at the night sky as the lunar module landed, our hearts swelling with pride being Americans.
Aug. 15-18, 1969
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, N.Y. An estimated 500,000-plus attending. The lineup read a who’s who of rock ‘n’ roll (BTW, I did not attend Woodstock).
Jan. 28, 1986
The Challenger space shuttle explodes
Working in Middle River, Md., for Martin Marietta Corporation (MMC), a colleague came into our meeting and announced that the Challenger exploded. The large orange exterior fuel tanks on the shuttle were built by MMC in Michoud, La. Aboard was Christa McAuliffe, selected to be the first teacher in space. Our son’s elementary school in Germantown, Md., was soon named in her honor, its motto: Touch the Future.
Sept. 11, 2001
Terrorism reaches our shores
Working for DynPort Vaccine Company, one of my coworkers announced the World Trade Centers had been hit by commercial jet liners. We gathered around a television and we found out that another jet hit the Pentagon, and then another crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn. These attacks represented the beginning of terrorism as we know it today, the worst in humankind.
On that day, perhaps the first time since Pearl Harbor, as Americans we truly became the United States of America. We all became family.
June 5, 2004
President Reagan dies
Ronald Wilson Reagan is my favorite president. Upon my leaving federal employment, I volunteered for the Reagan-Bush 84 campaign. When news broke he had died, we paid our respects. As we approached the Capitol Rotunda we circled around the flag-draped casket, saying prayers; we were given a thank you card from the Reagan family for our condolences.
I have a signed picture of President Reagan I cherish. After leaving the White House, it was later announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Since he was still of sound mind, I sent his California office a copy of his autobiography, “An American Life.” It came back a month later signed by President Reagan.
The Washington, D.C. earthquake
It was approximately 1:52 p.m., I was in an office in Rockville, Md., standing up, on the phone, talking to a colleague in Chantilly, Va. The building began shaking. We were having an earthquake.
It measured 5.8 on the Richter Scale, causing serious damage to the Washington Monument, shutting it down to visitors for several years while being repaired. On the National Cathedral, one of the highest points in the capitol, the Gargoyles on each of the corners fell to the ground. Damage was significant.