In part one, which can be found here, talked about many memorable events.
Part two certainly feels different for us, since we were older and theoretically wiser and more mature when they happened. There has also been a seismic shift in the way that news is watched and disseminated during this time period, and that certainly shows in our reflections.
Remember that these are listed in chronological order.
#10 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace May 19, 1999
Chris: By far the greatest and most defining movie moment of my life was seeing Star Wars in the theater. The star destroyer at the beginning just kept going and going. Nothing since can compare to that. So the anticipation for this movie was almost unbearable.
I didn’t go too crazy, though. I didn’t, like some did, buy tickets to other movies (such as A Bug’s Life and Wing Commander) just to watch the Phantom Menace trailer, and then leave before watching the movie I paid for. I did go with friends to the midnight toy premiere at the local Toys R Us. I didn’t buy much, since I was broke. I was fascinated that it coincided with a new run of Hot Wheels coming out, and there were guys there just for that. And I do mean guys. The crowd that night was almost all male. One thing that is cool over the last 15 years is seeing Star Wars fandom continue to expand. Used to be a big deal when some girl showed up at a con in a Leia slave girl outfit. Now they are everywhere.
I did see Episode I on opening night. Downright giddy when those famous first words appear. As for the movie itself, of course it couldn’t live up to the hype, and it remains my least favorite Star Wars movie. But I did see it again that opening weekend.
#9 Bush/Gore recounts November/December 2000
Chris: Talk about surreal. At that time I didn’t go into work at the library until after noon, so it was my “job” to watch the news and report any updates to my coworkers. It is still hard to believe that this sort of thing could happen in this day and age. And of course on TV we got to see the lawyers and political advisors and such go on and on and spin things, which was pretty unsavory. Watching it all you felt like you could go in there and do better than the people on TV were doing. But of course many of the people involved weren’t interested in the truth, necessarily, but in “winning”. That was their job.
The habit of waking up and watching the news first thing persisted with me for a long time, fueled by 9/11 and the Iraq war, when I would look for the reports of where troops had been killed that day to see if anyone I knew might be one of them.
Chris: I would literally bet money that everyone reading this recalls that day. That morning I got up and took my boys to school, and then went to a friend’s house to help her with her two little guys. So PBS was on the TV, and we didn’t hear about this right away. I get that they wouldn’t interrupt Sesame Street with breaking news, but I’ve always felt they should have put something on a crawl at the bottom of the screen indicating that something was happening.
My friend suddenly says she got an email saying that the towers had fallen. Of course I was skeptical, but changed the channel and watched in horror as events unfolded. We didn’t talk much as I watched and she surfed, excepting some early sharing of rumors. It was much more a case of sitting in stunned disbelief.
On a side note, one of those little guys I helped corral that day turned two the following February. He had no memories of 9/11, but he did have an early interest in airplanes. For his birthday I wanted to get him something similar to this, but no airplane toys were to be had. No one was selling any. The only airplanes I could find at all were fighter jets. And now that I think of it, that tot turns 14 this month, so my opening statement for this section may be false.
Christina: My memory of 9/11 begins with it being a beautiful morning. I was living in New Jersey at the time and was on my way to a graphic design class. The drive was a long one, so I put on Howard Stern, and they were debating about whether Pamela Anderson was flirting with Howard and/or his friends. Howard broke the news and they weren’t sure how serious it was, and like most people (including myself), they assumed it was an accident. After taking a look at the damage, they went back to teasing Howard about not getting to date Pamela Anderson. A few minutes passed, but then another interruption came, announcing that a second plane hit the towers.
Howard asked if it was a terrorist attack, and his crew stopped making jokes and started talking about the carnage. They played news audio for their listeners, and gasped in shock when it showed the second plane hit. “We’re under attack,” Howard shouted, clearly frightened. “We’re at war.”
Not too long after I got to my class, where my teacher and fellow students were perplexed by the Internet being down and their cell phones not working. I told them what I’d heard and the teacher called his wife, who confirmed the attack on the World Trade Center. All of us sat around, unsure of what to do besides speculate, but then my teacher got a call from his wife telling him about the attack on the Pentagon. He dismissed the class and told us to be careful. I didn’t have a clear view of the New York City highline, but I could see smoke on my way home.
#7 A New Pope April 19, 2005
Christina: While I am not religious, I have family members who are, and Pope John Paul II’s death marked the end of an era for many people of all faiths. The world got to see the process for finding a new pope, and I remember watching it at work in the break room. The jubilation of the crowd when the white smoke appeared and Pope Benedict made his first appearance is powerful to witness, no matter what your beliefs may be.
Pope Benedict is elected:
#6 Katrina August 29, 2005
Christina: Those of us who have lived in Florida all have a hurricane story, and in 2004 Hurricane Charley directly hit my town. I worked in a bank at the time and we had to work out of a trailer with an armed guard we dubbed “Rambo”. The people of Louisiana had a much harder time, however, and watching the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a sobering experience.
Chris: I remember seeing the footage of refugees at the Superdome, and waiting for the helicopters to show up, bringing in supplies. Seemed unfathomable that wasn’t happening. With Hurricane Charley the response was very fast, and I was expecting the same for Katrina. Different storm on a different scale.
After Charley we had a National Guard unit up from Miami bivouacking in the library meeting room. This was Charlie Company, of course. Some library patrons were quite startled to see soldiers with rifles using the library computers.
#5 The Sopranos final episode June 10, 2007
Christina: Even though I grew up in Florida and I was born in South America, I tell people that I’m from New Jersey because that’s where I spent my childhood and I feel a kinship with the often-mocked state. The Sopranos is a cultural milestone, especially in the NJ/NY area, and with Italian Americans. I should know, as my dad’s side of the family is Italian (I’m adopted).
When a huge show like The Sopranos ends, there’s always mixed feelings, but it was certainly a huge event in the entertainment industry. My aunt confessed she was going to feel strange not being able to look forward to a new Sopranos episode, as it became such a part of her weekly routine. She, like millions of others, watched the final broadcast and mourned the unexpected death of James Gandolfini a few months ago.
Chris: I didn’t watch The Sopranos at first, not until I moved into an apartment with HBO. Once I watched one episode there was no going back. The buzz that everyone had about how the series would end, and the reactions once it did end, was fun to be part of. It was also fun years later having my father-in-law driving us about New Jersey and pointing out landmarks from the opening credits of the show.
#4 Obama wins 2008 election November 4, 2008
Chris: Wow, what a night. It didn’t seem like it could be true until that final countdown to when the west coast polls closed and it became official. It was nice to see so much joy and celebration in politics, even if just for a little while.
Christina: I’d had a headache and mistakenly taken pain pills with a sleep aid, so I was drowsy when Jon Stewart announced Barack Obama won the election. I asked my husband if I was dreaming, but he confirmed it. It was a historic occasion, regardless of political views and subsequent events.
Kudos to Stephen Colbert for trying to stay in character, though you can see him noticeably tearing up.
Reactions from around the world:
#3 Michael Jackson dies June 25, 2009
Chris: Such an iconic figure. I remember how much of an event the Thriller video was when it was released. I may not always have liked his music so much, usually enjoying the Weird Al parodies more, and I remember refusing to see Captain Eo on a trip to EPCOT, but I had been hoping that he would find some peace in his life. His death was sad, and it was sad that it wasn’t very surprising.
The best part is at 3:38:
Christina: A tragic end to a tragic figure. I grew up in the 80s, when Michael Jackson was indeed the King of Pop, and watched him morph into an unrecognizable person who became fodder for late night talk show hosts. I personally loved Captain Eo and saw it about three times (but then again I was a little kid, so cut me some slack). It’s hard to look past the scandals and rumors, but I try to remember Michael Jackson as the ultimate entertainer, and not the obviously damaged man who didn’t know how to handle fame.
#2 Royal wedding (William and Kate) April 29, 2011
Chris: I was taken aback by how big a deal the royal wedding was. I can remember Charles and Diana’s being a big deal, but I thought this one would be less hyped. Boy was I wrong. And with social media these days there was no escaping the frenzy.
Christina: I’m not a royal family buff, but it was interesting to see all the hoopla about the royal wedding. Unlike his father, Prince William is rather handsome and likeable, and his then-fiance was a beautiful young woman, so it’s easy to see how the media was especially enamored with them. Those of us who had to work during the wedding didn’t have to worry about missing any pictures or footage, as social media replayed it all day and night. I’m just glad my wedding didn’t cause so much commotion.
#1 Announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death May 2, 2011
Christina: This breaking news update I got from Twitter, and once I saw it on news sites I turned on the TV to confirm it. People’s reactions were rather mixed, but it did feel like there was some closure after the attacks of September 11th.
Chris: When watching the news and seeing people running up to the White House and chanting USA! USA! I was struck by the similarities to the footage of people in the Middle East reacting to the 9/11 attacks. Human nature, I suppose.
Conclusion (Boston marathon)
Chris: It was fascinating while doing this blog to see the ways that news has changed over the years, both in the ways it is presented and in the ways that we watch it. From everyone having a favorite news anchor (since we all watched the nightly news) to now where the news reports on what people are saying on Twitter and Facebook things sure have changed over the years.
We saw such up-to-the-minute coverage of the Boston marathon bombing that we were virtually watching the hunt for the suspects in real time. We have many different and new ways of getting our news these days, and also new ways of sharing key events and happenings with each other.
Christina: Like most breaking news stories these days, I learned about the Boston marathon bombing on Twitter. I kept people up to date and followed the story as it happened. While social media does give way to rumors and speculation, it is a good way to keep informed and actually witness history unfolding.
Please share with us your own recollections of these any other events. We would love to here from you!
A list of library books and DVDs related to this blog can be found here: https://fontana.nccardinal.org/eg/opac/results?bookbag=24069;page=0;locg=155;depth=0
(Edited 12/5/14 to fix/replace broken links and to correct typos.)