Tuesday, July 12, 2011

History in the Making

By Lisa Karon Richardson

I often think of history as something quite removed from myself. I mean, history happened to people in other generations. Great events held sway and the fog of forgetfulness and distance have overlaid it all with a patina of romance. In comparison, my life is… mundane.

Then my husband had his 35th birthday last week. For his special day he had only one wish—to go to the historic final launch of the space shuttle. In Florida...

We live in Ohio.

There were some logistical issues.

In the end, he took a buddy and they made it a whole road trip. It became as much about the journey as it was about the destination. For a couple days it seemed touch and go as to whether he’d actually get to see the launch or not. Due to weather concerns and a possible lightning strike. But in the end, Space Shuttle Atlantis soared into history and he was there to witness it firsthand.

Thanks to him, I moved outside my typical myopia to realize anew that history is a living thing. I’ve witnessed its growth and been a party to events that future generations will be writing about. Some of the big ones:

  1. Ronald Reagan was elected when I was two. (He’s the first president I remember.)
  2. Fall of the Berlin Wall
  3. Operation Desert Storm
  4. Tiananmen Square
  5. The Columbine Shootings
  6. The embassy bombings in Kenya
  7. Princess Diana's death
  8. 9/11
  9. The war in Afghanistan
  10. The election of America’s first black president
  11. The capture of Sadam Hussein
  12. The Japanese tsunami
  13. The marriage of Will and Kate
  14. The killing of Osama Bin Laden
  15. The end of an era, with the last space shuttle flight

There’s supposed to be a Chinese curse that goes something like: “May you live in interesting times.” I don't think it's much of a curse. When I actually look back, I see that my grandkids will be asking me questions for their school history reports. History is all around us.

What are some of the most significant historical moments you recall from your life?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.


  1. Here's when my additional years show up Lisa. I remember my grandfather talking about this crazy new thing called color tv.

    I recall when president Kennedy was shot and leaving school to come home and find my adults in shock.

    The start of the Vietnam war

    Marilyn Monroe's death

    The Kent State shootings.


    Roe V Wade

    Saturday Night Fever-- does that count?

    Something must have happened in the eighties but I was too busy to notice.

    One of the biggies was that my parents ( my dad, like your hubby) went to a shuttle launch. Unfortunately they saw the Challenger blow up on liftoff.

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  3. Deb, I remember the Challenger launch. They had a teacher going up with the astronauts, so it was a big deal and we were actually in assembly at school watching it on TV live.

    Can't imagine what it must have been like for the people who were actually there. What a shock.

  4. For many years, we in Central Florida took the shuttle for granted. Launches and landings became routine. You could even forget they were scheduled, until you saw a bright orange streak shooting up from the eastern horizon or heard the sonic booms as the orbiter flew over Orlando on its way to Kennedy Space Center.

    One morning a few years ago, I did remember -- or maybe my husband reminded me -- that an orbiter was due to land, so I turned on the NASA TV channel. The picture showed bright orange bits flying across a blue sky. Momentum still carried what was left of Columbia eastward.

    I stood, numb, in front of the TV for a minute, absorbing this impossible news. Then I went to the back room to tell my husband, "They lost the orbiter."

    "What?!" He rushed to the TV and stared stoically at it. I sat in a chair and wept.

    He's an electrical engineer who works on the solid rocket boosters. He and his co-workers designed and installed the cameras that were added to the boosters to capture images of foam coming off the external tank.

    Today, he'll process the last launch videos captured by those cameras. In a couple of weeks, he'll be looking for a new job.

  5. Oh, Kristen, this last launch must have been really bittersweet. I was wondering what would happen to all the brilliant men and women who dedicated their lives to breaking the bonds of Earth for the firmament. Definitely modern day Magellans.

    Are there any private sector companies looking into space tourism?

  6. Very cool post today. It will be interesting to see what my little boy will be asking me about when he reaches school age and having to do reports.
    I don't remember when the US landed on the moon (I was two) - but it happened in my lifetime.

    I WAS in Germany at the time the Berlin wall fell (and got a few pieces of it chipped from the wall myself).

    I remember the Challenger. A girl came into our yearbook class and said the space shuttle exploded and my first thought was: "get out of here, the space shuttle just doesn't explode. NASA wouldn't let that happen." I also did get to see one of the early launches of the Columbia.

    I remember when there were only four TV channels (the big three plus PBS). When VHS was the next big thing and cell phones were the size and weight of bricks *heh*.

    Oh, and computers were the size of rooms (and had as much processing power as our smart phones have nowdays - whoa, technology...)

    Now I'm feeling old...

  7. I love this, Lisa! For some of us who love the past, we forget that we have lived through moments that will be considered "historic." I remember as a child (back before cable tv) wondering why all the channels were showing the boring footage of people getting on a plane. (The hostages in Iran returning home.) Of course 9/11 is seared into my mind, one of those "where were you when" moments, as well as many of the others that have been mentioned.

  8. The piece of history that popped into my mind first was the hostages in Iran in 1980. I was in fourth or fifth grade, and we made a big art mural about it in class and took it around to the younger classes to explain the crisis to them. We ended up in the newspaper over it. I think my mom still has the clipping.

    September 11 stands out in my mind as the most memorable and historical day.

    And of course I had the unique pleasure (notice my tongue in my cheek) of living through the war between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel in 2006.

  9. I lived with my grandparents when I was younger, and I have clear memories of being hustled to the television (it was normally kept off during the daytime) to watch men walking on the moon. It was black and white and grainy,and I wanted to watch Sesame Street instead.I was four.

  10. DebH,

    That is so cool that you got bits of the Berlin Wall. Now that will be a great story to tell! I'm a little jealous!

    I definitely remember just having the four channels.

    The oldest I've felt was when talking to some youth at the church. I made a Back to the Future reference and no one knew what I was talking about. Sigh.

  11. Anne and Dina, I think 9/11 is a big one for everyone who lived through it. A seminal moment in American History for sure, right up there with JFK's assassination and Pearl Harbor.

  12. Barb, I remember feeling the same way when people insisted on watching coverage of the Iran-Contra hearings. (Not that I knew what they were at the time!)

  13. I was a baby when Kennedy was assassinated, so I don't remember that at all. But my dad worked in downtown Dallas at the time and had gone down to the street to watch the motorcade pass. By the time he got back up to his office, Kennedy was dead.

    I sort of remember the moon walk. I know they brought a TV into the classroom so we could see. Yes, it was black and white and very grainy.

    Those are probably the earliest things I remember.

  14. It's interesting to me how many of us know people who witnessed these historic events first hand. Reminds me how small the world is, and again how close history is to each of us.

    DeAnna, did you ever suspect that the moon landing was faked? Never occurred to me until someone took that stance recently. Why bother? But apparently there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there!

  15. No, I never bought into the fake moon landing theory. I don't see a reason for it.

    But you're right. There are all kinds of "theories" out there about everything.

    Is it Occam's Razor that says the simplest explanation that covers the facts is usually the right one?

  16. Billy and I were talking about this just the other day, how history happens all the time. The Ronald Reagan shooting happened when I was in high school. I was in the girl's locker room, and someone came in and said the president had been shot. I remember being very scared about what would happen to America if he died.

    Another bit of history that hasn't been mentioned yet is Aids. The first time I read about it was in a People magazine article in the '70s. I remember the black and white photo was of two gay ment walking away from the camera. They still had very little information about it, other than the virus was killing homosexuals. I don't even know if it was being called Aids. But it's interesting to think there was a time when that disease wasn't out there killing people.

  17. DeAnna, are you sure you write mysteries? The simplest answer has to be obscured as much as possible! ;o)

  18. Jen, that's a really interesting thought. I hadn't really considered the AIDS epidemic. But there are a lot of illnesses that never had names until the last few decades. I'm thinking of the many manifestations of autism or fibromyalgia.

    I wonder how long it took for AIDS to actually be identified? The way I understand it, people don't die of AIDS, they die of the disease they acquire due to their immune system being suppressed.

  19. Well, are we talking fiction or history? ;)

  20. We were just talking about this, too! My parents were here, and we were wondering what sorts of things my children would reminisce about when they were older. Things change so fast.

    I remember when a portable CD player I wanted was $250. Now they're $12, but not a lot of people want them when you can have an itty bitty iPod instead.

    Ooh, we just rented Back to the Future, Lisa. 25 years...ugh.

    Yes, DeAnna, that's Occam's Razor!

    I'm trying to think of other historical events we've seen in our lifetimes...the election of the first African American President. A few nuclear disasters. Not only AIDS, but tremendous strides in combating it (and other diseases). Hmm, I will be thinking for the rest of the day about what I'm missing!

  21. Susie, there really have been great strides in medicine over the last couple of decades. Maybe we'll live to see a cure for cancer!

  22. Yes, Susie, so many advances in technology. In my lifetime, I've seen the creation of the video tape recorder (and it's awesome cousin, the DVR), the ATM card, cell phones, home microwave ovens, all manner of portable music devices, personal GPS systems... the list goes on and on. It's pretty amazing when you think about all the stuff we take for granted today that wasn't around a mere 40 years ago.

  23. Even as recently as college I vowed that I would never carry a cell phone around with me. I scoffed at those who had beepers. Swore I would never be tethered to an electronic leash.


    Now if I so much as leave my phone at home while I'm grocery shopping, I feel completely cut off and as if I'm missing some vital part of my anatomy.

  24. I easily recalled all the events you listed, Lisa, and would add our entrance into the Gulf War (I was at Lamaze class during my first pregnancy), the Challenger and Columbia disasters, the school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, and the OKC bombing.
    Early, early memories? Pointing at "Tricky Dicky" (Nixon) on the black and white TV and giggling. John Lennon's assassination. Oh, and I was playing with my chemistry set in my "lab" under the basement stairs the day Reagan was shot. I remember thinking the Secret Service agent who was wounded was SO cute. How's that for a kid's perspective? : )

  25. Great topic, Lisa. First I have to say - your husband just celebrated his 35th birthday, and yesterday was the 34th anniversary of the first date my husband and I had. I think that means I'm old enough to be your mother.

    My first big historical memory was watching JFK's funeral. I didn't really understand, but that little boy saluting his daddy's casket made a huge impression on me.

    I can remember sitting in my classroom at school watching the moon landing. Very exciting stuff. I think I was 9 or 10.

    How about this one: "I am not a crook"

    Patty Hearst kidnapping.

    Oh, and that reminds me, I lived in San Francisco during the era of the flower child. Lol. I was so fascinated by the hippies. I always say if we had stayed there instead of coming back to Washington, I would have become a hippie. I loved their long flowy dresses.

  26. I can't believe I didn't think to include the Oklahoma City bombing, Niki! That one really hit me hard. Partly because of my age at the time.

    I missed out on Nixon and Watergate, but I can tell you I sure wish themedia didn't feel compelled to add 'gate to every stinking political scandal that comes along. Let's have a little originality people!

  27. Suzie you should be thrilled to have the maci dresses back "in"!

  28. Suzie, thank you. I feel better now knowing I'm not the only one who 'came of age' in the 60s and 70s.

    How about -the Beatles on Ed Sullivan?

    The first time American astronauts circled the moon (didnt' they make a movie out of that... Houston, we have a problem...)

    Great post Lisa.
    I was in second grade when Kennedy was shot and we all got sent home. Back in the day when everyone's mom was at home...

  29. Deb, you mentioned the Beatles. When I was five, my parents and I were walking past the Cow Palace in San Francisco and there were police and barriers and screaming everywhere. I was scared, but my dad said it was just the Beatles. I didn't know what 'the Beatles' were, and sure didn't know why everyone was screaming. I didn't realize for several years, and by then they'd broken up.

  30. Deb, it would be a scramble at my house if the kids got sent home early.

  31. Suzie Jo, I meant maxi dress. Stupid phone!

  32. Lisa, I knew what you meant. Oh, and I have the same problem with my phone. I make soooo many typos with these tiny buttons.


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