Question of the Week: What News Story Brings Back Your Early Teenage Years?

This is an experiment to see if we can get our readers to join in more of a dialogue with us.  We are going to pose a question each week, and see if we can get some interesting responses.  The question for this week is:  “What one news story do you most associate with your early teenage years for you and why?”

Here’s my answer:  The assassination of Martin Luther King

And here’s why: at the time of King’s assassination, I was living on an Army post in Germany and feeling sad about our tour there coming to an end—and I was more than a little worried about going back to the States and entering high school.  There was a string of assassinations that summer—first King and then Bobby Kennedy—and these events had a powerful effect on me, much more so even than John Kennedy’s death, since I was only in the 4th grade for that one.

The thing is that James Early Ray changed more than just one man’s life that day when he pulled that trigger:  my whole world was turned upside down.  The news stories and the pictures from that one event was that the United States had changed, in my head, from a place where beloved relatives lived and you could buy a wonderful hamburger into a land where good people got shot down.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta

The States suddenly seemed dramatically different from our secure, enclosed post at the top of a hill overlooking the little town of Landstuhl, and I couldn’t think about going back there without having day-mares and nightmares.  And now, whenever I think about King’s assassination, I feel that same scary, sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.  His death was not just the death of a great person—it was the first of many events that shook up my world and made me feel very aware of death, very aware of evil, very aware of how unpredictable and frightening a place the world could be.


6 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What News Story Brings Back Your Early Teenage Years?

  1. In November 1964, I was a senior at a high school I had only attended for three months. I was still missing “my class” whom I’d had to leave behind when we moved the summer before. The school I had moved from had a much more thorough curriculum than my new school and there were very few offerings of courses I hadn’t already had with which to fill my schedule at the new school. Consequently I was taking a shorthand and typing course at the end of the day with mostly 9th grade girls headed for secretarial school. I hadn’t developed any close friendships in that class yet, though it would soon happen, and mostly as a result of what happened on the afternoon of November 22. It was toward the very end of class, and we were all getting fidgety, and we really groaned when we heard the principal come over the loud speaker to make an announcement. At that time of day, it could only mean one of the buses was delayed, and a delay could mean more than the usual thirty minutes’ ride home. The class was stunned to hear the principal speak in an emotional voice rather than his usual businesslike clipped tones. What he had to say was startling and unreal. The President had been shot. Somehow there was a television in the room. Maybe our teacher was also the AV director for the school. Anyway, we sat in total, stunned silence while Walter Cronkite told us what they knew. The whole afternoon runs together for me, so I see myself still sitting there when he announced that President Kennedy was dead, but I believe I was at home when I learned that. Time stopped and yet swirled feverishly, and my safe world exploded. I had thought that assassinations and other horrible stories from history were just that–just stories–just events from a long-ago, pre-civilized time–that could never happen in the America I lived in, a world of advancement and steady improvement. This isn’t an event from my early teenage years, but this is an event that blocked out every other news event of my life up to that time.

  2. We had no TV, so the radio and newspapers were my window on the world. I remember most vividly two photographs: the young woman crying out in anguish over a slain student at Kent State when four students were gunned down by Ohio National Guardsmen during a war protest in 1970; and I remember the photo of the screaming girl running naked, along with other terrified children, down a road after being severely burned in a South Vietnamese napalm attack in 1972. So, so sad.

    On a happier note, the music was good in my little town–WLS out of Chicago.

  3. The age of innocence ended with the assassination of JFK. We were all in school and watched it on the corner black and white TV. I didn’t really know what had happened, I just knew that it was never the same after….

  4. Aug. 5, 1962: the death of Marilyn Monroe, we were driving in the mountains of NC and I guess I was a pop culture whore at the age of 12 (and also being a current fan of Smash). That date just stuck with me, maybe a loss of innocence thing.

  5. The memory that brings me back to my very early teenage years is the day that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It was the summer of ’69, and I heard the newsman announce it on TV from up in our attic. I was sorting through old clothes from my mom, and the sound of the newscaster’s voice made me feel like this is the end of an era, and the start of another. It was eerie…

  6. Hi! Here’s my answer: When Nixon resigned. I don’t really know why this made such an impact – I was an almost-14 year old girl and didn’t have much interest in politics. I remember watching it on tv (probably because there was no cable television back then and it was airing on all the channels)! My naivete took a big hit that afternoon – up until then, I truly believed that no one really did anything wrong on purpose!

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