It’s Deep-Fried Friday and time for another sizzling entry in my High School Halls series.
I’ve been sick this week–which got me to thinking about when I was sick in high school. The day that stands out to me most for being sick coincides with an event that changed us. It was the day that the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off, and in a day when cable TV was still not very prominent, I spent the rest of the day seeing that event and related news reports over and over and over.
There are certain national or international events that are so impactful that you can ask people, “Where were you when ______?” and they know. The Challenger explosion is one for me, and it happened my senior year of high school.
That Was Then
The Challenger disaster made such an impact because we had become confident about our space program. Despite the challenges of spaceflight, the United States had never experienced a fatality during a mission before the January 1986 disaster. Seven people died on that shuttle, including six astronauts and one civilian. You see, we Americans had become so confident in our space program that NASA had launched a Teacher in Space Project, choosing social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe from 11,000 applicants to join the crew of the Challenger. The event was publicized even more because of the teacher’s presence on the flight, and I still have an interview with Ms. McAuliffe that I cut out of my Seventeen magazine at the time.
However, our country drew a collective gasp when less than three minutes into the flight, the shuttle disintegrated in the atmosphere. Along with adults around the country, classrooms of school children watched the event live or in special reports. I was not in a classroom, though; I was at home on my couch watching it all happen and wondering what it all meant.
In addition to the Challenger disaster in 1986, there were several major news stories that changed how we viewed our world, ourselves, or others. Here are some of the major events of the 1980s:
1980: 50 countries, including the USA, boycott the summer Moscow Olympic Games
1981: President Reagan is shot by John Hinckley but survives the bullet wound
1981: Prince Charles and Princess Diana marry in the wedding of the decade
1986: The Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Soviet Union explodes
1986: The Iran-Contra Scandal is brought to light and hearings begin
1987: The stock market takes a plunge on “Black Monday”
1989: The Exxon Valdez tanker spills millions of gallons of oil off the Alaskan coastline
1989: The Berlin Wall falls (or better put, is torn down)
This Is Now
High schoolers from the 1980s remember where they were for some or all of the above events, but teens since then recall different major news stories from their high school years. Perhaps it was the Oklahoma City Bombing (1995), Princess Diana’s death (1997), the shooting at Columbine (1999), the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City (2001), or Hurricane Katrina (2005).
What are the current headlines that will spark teens to recall where they were when they heard or saw that news story unfold? Perhaps the historical election of our first black president in the United States (2008) will qualify. The death of Michael Jackson (2009) certainly got its share of play on news programs at the time. Maybe the death of Osama Bin Laden or the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (2011) captured the attention of teens.
Then again, maybe it was the release of the new iPhone several days ago.
What events will remain the collective memory of teenagers and become a part of their high school reminiscence? What news stories will change their view of the world around them or of themselves?
What major news event(s) do you recall happening during your high school years? Where we you when _____? What recent events impact high school students today?