Born in the 1950s, I have lived in or through seven decades as we enter this new year.
Never did I consider the year 2020. Graduation dates — from high school, from college — were the milestones to be reached.
Maybe it’s the symmetry of the numerals — 20 and 20 — that has led to this journey through mental imagery.
I remember being escorted single file to the lowest level of my elementary school and told to face the concrete wall outside the boiler room.
My classmates and I did this instead of the absurdity of hiding under desks during Cold War nuclear bombing drills, a common memory of many others my age.
I can see my teacher’s wife bursting into the classroom crying as she tells her husband the president had been shot.
In my mind’s eye, I see the televised motorcade through Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963, the close-up of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy as he is assassinated, and his wife, Jackie, dressed in a bloodied pink suit, crawling over the back of the limousine to retrieve a piece of his skull.
Then, there is the image of New York Sen. Bobby Kennedy crumbling to the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after being fatally shot by Sirhan Sirhan June 5, 1968.
Maybe as collective release of anger and frustration from recent tragedies and the Vietnam War, not-yet-famous musicians and thousands of youth gathered for Woodstock in mid-August 1969 in the rain and mud at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York for a musical festival yet to be rivaled by any other.
Woodstock, the psychedelic ’60s and protests in the streets were followed by America’s exit from Vietnam in April 1975 and the Fall of Saigon, as the capital was seized by communist forces.
I can still see the frantic evacuation of Americans and desperate South Vietnamese citizens by Marine and Air Force helicopters, hovering above or landing on various buildings in the soon-to-be communist city.
Rather than seeing the image, I can still hear President Ronald Reagan’s voice demanding of the Soviet Union’s General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall,” during a speech in West Berlin June 12, 1987.
Watching and re-watching the televised images of the two hijacked planes hitting the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the dust and debris billowing through the streets as people ran for their lives on 9/11 is seared into my memory.
And, now as 2020 barely begins, I watch televised images of a field strewed with debris from a Ukrainian jet shot down “unintentionally” by an Iranian missile.
But, more importantly, there are images of thousands of outraged Iranian citizens protesting in the streets of Tehran and other cities against their country’s action in the murder of the 176 passengers and crew, many of whom were Iranian and Canadian.
Where, if anywhere down the road, could these protests lead?
Could the Iranian people take back their country to a time when they had a democratically elected government, to a time before Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown in a coup backed by the United States in 1953?
I can’t but help wonder what images will be imprinted in the memories of babies born in the ’20s and beyond.