We were at the post office on Friday when I noticed that the flag was at half-staff. I wondered why. Suddenly, it hit me. Of course! Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy!
I know I am a certified old fart because I can remember the day it happened. I was four years old, almost five, living in New York City. And the whole thing really pissed me off.
Of course, I didn’t understand anything about what was going on. But what annoyed the heck out of me was that none of my cartoons or kids’ shows were on TV, not even the Mickey Mouse Club. Every channel just had people talking, talking, talking. And it bugged me that everyone was going around crying.
Even my wife is too young to remember the day JFK was killed. She was only an infant then.
I’ve been wondering what landmark events resonate with the younger crew. This is kind of important because, well, they’re of the age when they’re about to take over the world.
The day Elvis died? Nope, they weren’t even born yet. The day John Lennon was murdered? Ditto.
Elvis met his demise while I was in college. I couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it. When I was told that John Lennon was killed, I had to ask who he was. A political figure? Sports world? Music? Bingo. Oh yeah, I vaguely remembered the notation “Lennon & McCartney” at the top of the sheet music for “Let It Be” that we practiced in junior high chorus. Hmph. Whatever.
The day the space shuttle Challenger exploded? That was in ’86; the twentysomethings still weren’t born.
9/11? My niece just barely remembers it. She was five years old when the Twin Towers came down.
Does this leave the Millennials without any personal historical or cultural frame of reference? Rolling Stone recently pointed out the Gen Y crowd has never heard of Ross Perot, Gorbachev, the TV series “Dinosaurs” (“Not the Mama!”), Cybill Shepherd or Dabney Coleman, and has never taken a roll of film in to be developed (we used to mail ours to Sears with a check and they’d mail back our black-and-white prints) or used a floppy disk, a cassette-based answering machine or a dial-up modem. Hmm, maybe they lucked out after all.
But fear not! All is not lost on the young’uns. I discovered this a few days ago when my 17 year old niece asked me “Where were you when Michael Jackson died?”
Where was I? The same place I was when Challenger blew up. The same place I was when the planes hit the towers on 9/11. At work.
So there you have it. The King of Pop, who in his life was such a musical influence and cultural icon for Gen X, in his death provided the chief historical frame of reference for Gen Y.
Anything earlier than that exists only on Wikipedia.