It’s funny what you remember – Part Deux
Our human brains have the capacity for different types of memories. One type is the fond recollection of meaningful personal events, like your best Christmas ever. These types of memories are unique to the person doing the remembering. Someone may have been by your side the whole time, but their memories of the same experiences may not match yours. Another type of memory is one where many people of a certain population or age group remember the same event. The unique part of this type is how we reacted or how it made us feel.
For instance, if you are about 60 or older, where were you when President Kennedy was shot? And how did it make you feel? I was in the sixth grade at Highland School. Our teachers and principal were crying when they wheeled the black and white television into Mr. Scallan’s classroom on an AV cart. I remember thinking, “What in the world? Teachers don’t cry.” (At least they didn’t in 1963 at Highland School.) We weren’t long past the Cuban Missile Crisis which in itself had us convinced of our impending demise. It wasn’t a big leap to think we were really sunk now. My classmates and I were told that this scene — the president slumped over, Jackie in her pillbox hat, the Lincoln convertible — was something we would remember for the rest of our lives. I was overcome by a sense of doom, at age 11. Like the child that I was, I wondered what was going to become of me and my family. It never occurred to me that this is why we have vice presidents. And I didn’t consider what evil person could do such a thing, at least not until the main suspect was shot himself.
What about July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind? If you are at least age 55, you probably remember exactly what you were doing when those stunning pictures were beamed from the moon to Earth. I remember being more interested in my father’s amazement than being amazed myself. To me, a know-it-all teenager, walking on the moon was no big deal — of course it could be done. To my father, it was the dream of a lifetime.
If you are 20-something or older, where were you when you first learned of the atrocities on September 11, 2001? I was getting ready for work, listening to NPR. Bob Edwards interrupted the story in progress to say a jetliner had collided with one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. It wasn’t until subsequent crashes were reported that I realized the first one was no accident.
I believe there will soon come a time when the coronavirus pandemic will be this type of shared memory. Like a presidential assassination, a miracle in space, a terrorist attack, and many other monumental moments in our lifetimes, COVID-19 and its repercussions will become another piece of our shared history.
No doubt we will recall the dark days of illness and death before effective treatment and a vaccine were discovered. We will reminisce about the ways we coped and the limitations on our daily lives during quarantine. Children born in 2020, like our own Ollie and Allie, will be told stories of their birth: “Only Mommy and Daddy could be there when you were born – no brothers, sisters or grandparents were even allowed to visit in the hospital!”
God in his wisdom and grace has given us the capacity to remember our past and press onward to the future. With His help, we will prevail in this challenge, unique in our individual responses but united in our resolve to face whatever comes with faith and courage.
He will raise us up on eagles’ wingsfrom Psalm 91
Bear us on the breath of dawn
And make us to shine like the sun
And hold us in the palm of His hand.
Offered by Mary Thompson
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