My inspiration for this post, as for so many other things in life, is Ken Jennings. He wrote recently on his blog about the first five news events he could personally remember. I got to thinking about it and here's what I came up with for myself:
1. January 1986 (age 4): the space shuttle Challenger explodes. This one is iffy, because I don't know if I actually remember it, or just remember that I remember it, you know? I can recall where in our living room the TV was when the news was on, and also something about being at the church that day and seeing lots of those ubiquitous (if you're an 80s Mormon) stackable plastic orange chairs. Who knows if this is genuine or not.
2. August 1987 (age 5): Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashes. About this news event, I remember not only that only one passenger survived, but that it was a four-year-old girl, and that her grandparents were able to identify her definitively by her purple nail polish.
3. October 1987 (age 6): Baby Jessica falls down a well. I also remember the Simpsons episode that is derivative of this event, but that was much later and thus is not relevant here (though it was extremely funny).
4. November 1988 (age 7): Bush vs. Dukakis presidential election. I remember discussing it in first grade, with help from our issues of the Weekly Reader.
5. August 1989 (age 7): Gorbachev OUT. That was the exact headline in the newspaper one morning when I woke up, which shows you how these memories get clearer as I get older.
I'm going to do one more since the first one might not count.
6. October 1989 (age 8): the San Francisco Earthquake. I was in the car on my way home from piano lessons when we heard about this on the radio. I also remember that a double-decker bridge collapsed and a guy was stuck in his car there for - hours? days? Time is different for kids. It was a long time, anyway, and they did get him out but I think he died later. I can't find any confirmation of this online, but my memory of this is so vivid.
What is interesting to me is what is missing from this list: Chernobyl, Tiananmen Square, a lot of boring stuff about Iran and miscellaneous Arab terrorists, etc.
When I was thinking about it, I realized that I have memories of other news events but they are most likely secondary, and gleaned from sources such as Saturday Night Live or The Simpsons a few years after they happened. The Tammi Faye Bakker scandal and the "We Are the World" song come to mind.
I am very interested to hear your first memories of news events. It was great to read Amanda's list and see how it compared to mine (she is a few years younger than me but we overlapped a little).
What will really scare me is if some of you young people write in and your first remembered news event is something like the OJ Simpson trial. That will make me feel old, considering I watched the verdict being delivered in my freshman science class. But please share your list anyway.