By Henry Piarrot
“I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” – Winston Churchill
Over the years of writing the stories of hundreds of people, the topic of how the world has changed many times during their lives comes up often. Consequently, with the recent passing of my 52nd birthday, I found myself realizing that the world of my youth no longer exists.
I was born on December 10, 1959. Since that fateful Thursday afternoon, the world has turned 18,993 times, lapped the sun 52 times and rained, snowed, cracked and shook more times than I can count. Terrible wars have come and gone and miraculous medical and mechanical advances have occurred. In my lifetime, as Americans, we went from trying to get along with people who did not like us to those who wish to destroy us and our entire way of life. To many I know, I am still young, but I have seen a lot.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was near the end of his second term when I arrived. Before I was even a year old, the Tiros I, the first weather satellite, was launched by the United States, in the Soviet Union, a United States U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over Russia and John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States.
Before I was old enough to watch the evening news the “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba was repulsed, Commander Alan Shepard, inside a Mercury capsule was finally launched and traveled over 115 miles above the earth from Cape Canaveral, Florida, President Kennedy announced his intention to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade and the construction of the Berlin Wall began.
The next year, my recollections begin when Lt. Colonel John Glenn became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth in the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule not long before the world held its breath during The Cuban Missile Crises. Just as I was about to turn 4 years old, Martin Luther King painted his dream and Camelot abruptly closed for business.
Suddenly, my first decade became defined by The Beatles, The Mustang, and Johnson’s Vietnam War. Before long, Medicare, race riots, draft card burning, Nixon, Woodstock and a man on the Moon took me to the fourth grade.
The 1970’s brought Kent State, Watergate, Roe v. Wade and the end of a war many say we had no business fighting. Ford lost to Carter and even Disco could not lift the malaise. So Iran held us hostage and convinced us that they were not the only country in need of a revolution.
By 1980, I was finally old enough to vote and made sure I did. America had become a dark place and we needed someone to turn on the lights. However, Ronald Reagan had barely gotten our hostages home before we almost lost him to a Jodi Foster infatuation.
In between the Knoxville and New Orleans’ World Fairs, Reagan gave us Star Wars and Sally took a Space Shuttle ride. Then Mondale thought Miss Geraldine would get the women’s vote, but the Electoral College counted 525 to 13 and that was all she wrote.
Mikhail Gorbachev tried to trick our President, but Reagan demonstrated “peace through strength” when he refused capitulation to the demand of limiting development of the “Star Wars” missile defense shield and The Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party ultimately gave up its monopoly of power and George H. W. Bush came into office just in time to watch the Berlin Wall come down. Then he kicked Saddam out of Kuwait, but when he raised he our taxes, Bill Clinton sent him home. Actually, Ross Perot did have a little something to do with that.
In 1995 we all cried when anarchists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols explode a bomb outside the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing one hundred and sixty-eight people, many were small children in a daycare.
After Monica’s blue dress and the Dot.Com Bubble burst, George W. Bush, son of the former President, and Vice President Al Gore ran a virtual dead-heat for the presidency. But Gore disputed the vote in Florida, holding off the naming of the winner of the President Election until the Supreme Court of the United States voted rightly in favor of Bush 2 days after my 41st birthday, giving Florida to the Bush camp with a 527 vote majority.
In response to the murders of September 11, 2001, the U. S. military, with a little help from our friends, commenced the first attack in the War on Terror on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Then, the War in Iraq began with the bombing of Baghdad after additional measures and mandates from the United Nations and the United States coalition fail to gain concessions or the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.
I did live to see it, as Barack Obama took the oath of office for President in January 2009, becoming the first partially African-American president in the history of the nation. The Democrat Senator from Illinois came into the office on a message of “Change.” Unfortunately, it is possible our country may not survive the changes.
Whether it is personal computers, electric cars, I-Phones, wireless internet or flat screen televisions, I am definitely living today in an all new world. Did I mention four of my five children are now grown? I can only imagine the future that is waiting for them…
Henry Piarrot is a Sevier County resident and hotel manager on assignment in Nashville. Please send all story recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org