The Big Deals

By Michelle Railey

So, you were talking to a guy. A guy who had been working air traffic control on September 11, 2001.

(In this scenario, you were me. I was talking to a guy…)

His story is not mine to tell but you can read his testimony in the 9/11 Commission Report. (Check your local library or independent bookstore or whatever.)

And 9/11 is harrowing and painful and a million other things.

But I ended up thinking about “The Things I’ve Seen In My Life.”

I normally do this with, say, my great-grandmother (1901-1997). She saw very nearly the entire 20th century. My mind can’t even approximate the changes she went through.

I also, frequently, while working on genealogy, wonder what my ancestors saw and experienced, the changes that happened during their lives.

But. It occurred to me: I was alive on 09/11. I have my story, too. (Every American alive that day does. Every human on every day has their story.)

And, being smack-dab middle aged, well, I’ve seen some things. So I got to thinking: what were the really big deals? What are the events I was alive for that will most definitely make the history books (assuming “books” are still a thing)?

Now, not everyone likes a list. But I’m tossing it out there in the universe anyway. And, yeah, I’m going to miss some things and forget some things and this is not definitive or documentary or, or, or (the ors are exhausting). Still, here’s my preliminary list of the BIG DEALS that I’ve lived through that are HISTORY. (I think.) (There should probably be a second one for also-rans and a third for pop culture but, well, this one is not those.)

What’s your list? (Also, for the sake of future historians and genealogists, write your list down. Just saying. You can also leave your thoughts in our comments. — yeah, shameless, plugging, but still.)

THE BIG DEALS (some bigger than others, obviously)

27 March 1980: The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens (United States)

30 March 1981: John Hinckley, Jr. shoots Ronald Reagan in an assassination attempt. (United States)

1981: First cases of HIV-AIDS reported in the United States.

1985: Ryan White denied the right to attend public school after being diagnosed with HIV-AIDS. (United States)

1985-1987: The Iran-Contra Affair (United States, World)

22 September 1985: FarmAid (United States)

28 January 1986: The Challenger disaster. (United States)

26 April 1986: Chernobyl (Asia, World)

25 May 1986: Hands Across America (United States)

19 October 1987: Black Monday (stock market crash) (United States, World)

24 March 1989: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. (United States, World)

15 April-4 June 1989: Tiananmen Square Protests (China)

9 November 1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall (Europe, World)

November 1989-1992: Reorganization of the Eastern Bloc; Collapse of the Soviet Union (Europe, Asia, World)

17 June 1991: Apartheid legislation repealed in South Africa (Africa)

1992-1995: Advent and popular usage of the Internet (World)

19 April 1995: Oklahoma City bombing (United States)

11-22 July 1995: Srebrenica Massacre (Europe, World)

1 July 1997: Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule from U.K. Commonwealth (Europe, Asia)

10 April 1998: Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement) (Ireland, Europe, Northern Ireland, World)

19 December 1998: President Clinton impeached. (United States)

20 April 1999: Columbine High School Mass Shooting (United States)

May-December 1999: Y2K Phenomenon (United States, World)

11 September 2001: Terrorist attacks in the United States (United States)

20 September 2001- Present: United States War on Terror (Iraq and Afghanistan; disputed dates) (World)

1 February 2003: Columbia Disaster. (United States)

April 2004: Torture, abuse, and war crimes by Americans at Abu Ghraib exposed (United States, World)

26 December 2004: Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami (Asia, World)

23 August 2005: Hurricane Katrina (United States, World)

December 2007- June 2009: The Great Recession (United States, World)

4 November 2008: The Election of Barack Obama (United States)

20 April 2010: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (United States, World)

11 March 2011: Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (Asia, World)

26 June 2015: U.S. Supreme Court hands down the decision in Obergefell v Hodges, legalizing same sex marriage throughout the United States. (United States)

18 December 2019: President Trump’s First Impeachment (United States)

31 January 2020: Brexit Effected. (Europe, World)

February 2020- June 2021: SARS-CoV-2 Global Pandemic (World; End date uncertain)

6 January 2021: Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol (United States)

13 January 2021: President Trump’s Second Impeachment (United States)

Notes: I have some also-rans and some things that should have made the list and maybe, after some more time, I will revisit this list. At any rate, here are some other things that maybe or maybe not should have made the list:

About 1985: The War on Drugs is declared (United States)

14 June 1988: Yellowstone Wildfires Begin (United States)

16 August 1992: Hurricane Andrew (United States)

November 1999-2000: The custody battle for Elian Gonzalez ignites the immigration debate (United States, World)

12 October 2000: The bombing of the USS Cole (United States, World)

14 December 2012: Mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary (United States)

14 February 2018: Mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (United States)

Additionally, and not in chronological order: Black Lives Matter (2020-2021), Death of Princess Diana (31 August 1997), Death of JFK Jr (16 July 1999), The iPhone, Death of Osama bin Laden (2 May 2011), the ACA, Hurricane Maria (2017), Pulse Nightclub shooting (12 June 2016), Atlanta Olympics Bombing (July 1996), The Collapse of Cable TV, Extreme Weather (Fires, Storms, Temperatures).

I didn’t even mention Noriega or Imelda Marcos’ shoes or Putin’s shirtless propaganda. For that matter, I didn’t mention Charo.

Well, Pop culture will have to wait for another list, another time, maybe another “writer.”

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