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.
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.