Recently, Keith Harris asked the following question on his Cosmic America blog: “What is your first memory of a historical event?”
I remember many things from my early childhood, including sitting in gas lines during the Carter administration, listening to records and eight-tracks, and being chased by a neighborhood dog, but my earliest historical memory is John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan on 30 March 1981.
I was in second grade, staying at a friend’s house after school. We walked in, and the radio was on with news reports about the assassination attempt. When we asked what was going on, my friend’s mother turned off the radio and told us not to worry about it.
I also recall two historical events from the third grade. We received a periodical geared toward elementary school children, the name of which I’ve forgotten. One of the stories was about this hockey wunderkind named Wayne Gretzky scoring 50 goals in 39 games.
The other story was about Lech Wałęsa, the Polish Solidarity leader, and his opposition to Communism.
As I’ve written before, other things sparked my interest in history, but recalling my first historical memory was a good exercise in pinpointing when I first became aware of contemporary world events. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Keith.