“Photos capture our memories in print, but our memories are always with us in our minds.”— Catherine Pulsifer 1946-2013 “Teach Me Soft Skills” inspirational works
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Photos evoke memories, but we humans seem to have a penchant for bookmarking history in another way. We remember history making events by where we were, who we were with, and what we were doing when we heard the news.
Today, September 11, is one of those events. The day anti-American terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, killing 2,977 people and injuring an estimated 6,000 others in the deadliest terrorist act in the world. It’s a day many find hard to believe happened 20 years ago. Yet, for others, it may seem like yesterday.
The first history making event for me was my sophomore year at Mount Pleasant High School. Lunch was over that Friday, November 22, 1963, as I sat atop my drafting board stool in David Murray’s mechanical drawing class. Staying awake in any class right after lunch was difficult. Even Mr. Murray looked as though he might be thinking about a nap as he sat leaned back in his desk chair, feet propped on his desk, and eyes closed.
The lazy silence was interrupted by a knock on the classroom door when Mrs. Black entered the room before Mr. Murray could get there. She had come from the main building to the annex where drawing and homemaking classes were conducted. “Oh, Mr. Murray, she sobbed through tears. “Someone has assassinated the president in Dallas.”
After a brief inaudible conversation between the two long-time Mount Pleasant educators, Mrs. Black left, and Mr. Murray turned to address the class, already abuzz over the news. Although expressing his sorrow over the news, with the rap of a T-square in his desk, he left no doubt that the day’s assignment was still due when the bell rang.
Friday night was a home game for the black and gold Tigers. And it was played like any other game. The only hint of the day’s events was an extended prayer for the family of President John F. Kennedy and for our country.
Just shy of six years later, on Sunday night, July 20, 1969, U.S. astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins landed the lunar module, Eagle, on the moon’s surface. With more than half a billion people watching on television at shortly after at 9:56 p.m. Texas time, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder to become the first human to set foot on another world and proclaim, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I watched history unfold on the black and white television in the living room of my parent’s house in Delafield Street in Mount Pleasant. The memories are mingled with those of a summer job at Sandlin Chevrolet and Olds in Mount Pleasant, drag racing every weekend, and one of those summer romances that a young man never forgets. But that’s another story for another time.
Scant years later, Tuesday, August 16, 1977, was winding down in Abilene, Texas. The radio behind my desk where I worked on the downtown corner of 8th and Pine Streets softly played country music as it did every day. Then, suddenly, the music ended when the voice on the radio said, “This bulletin from Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis …” During that brief pause when the radio announcer was gathering his notes or maybe his composure, it hit me. Something in my mind said, “Elvis.”
It was true. The rest of the bulletin confirmed that the “King of Rock and Roll” was dead at the age of 42.
At another desk and another job in Center 24 years later, my sister Sylvia called. She was watching an unfathomable tragedy unfold on television news and asked if I was aware of it. I was not. While she relayed the report of a commercial airliner flying into one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York, she witnessed live the second aircraft fly directly into the second tower. Shock and disbelief confirmed the worst. The U.S. was under attack by terrorists.
Twenty years later, attacks on freedom and the American way of life are still being waged; some from within our own government.
Some memories make us happy; some make us sad. Only by remembering that freedom is never free and there will always be those who want to abolish it, can a free nation continue. God bless America as we remember and pay tribute to those who died in the deadliest act of terrorism the free world has ever known.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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