It kind of bothers me sometimes how little people seem to remember. In the U.S., at least, it seems any time an event occurs, it is immediately hyped up as being the first time ____ has ever happened. Just within the past couple of weeks we heard that two hurricanes were heading toward the U.S., one behind the other, and THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY THAT WE’VE SEEN THIS!! Surely we all remember a time when two hurricanes happened to be lined up near each other in the ocean and were headed toward the U.S. I remember plenty of times myself. Never mind that usually one of the storms gets downgraded and is no longer a hurricane by the time of landfall. When Irma was heading for the Florida Keys, I saw plenty of hysterical posts on social media about how this was the first time such a strong hurricane had ever threatened the Keys. Seems no one can remember or even has the skills to research a little anymore. In 1935 (just as ONE example), The Labor Day Hurricane caused incredible damage to the Florida Keys. You can still see that damage as you drive down to Key West alongside the railroad that abruptly ends, destroyed by this hurricane and never repaired. Remember Hurricane Donna and Betsy in the 1960s? One of them most certainly was guilty of tossing a Volkswagen Beetle into the bottom of the sea – a creepy shipwreck-like scene that I was fascinated by as a kid swimming in the open ocean.
It’s not only hurricanes and weather events – what about swine flu or H1N1? Does anyone remember that? I do. I actually had the swine flu – in 2009 – and I survived. We didn’t shut anything down for H1N1. We were simply told that if you were sick, stay home. It was a pandemic, just as we’ve had numerous other pandemics. What about SARS? MERS? COVID-19 is not the first pandemic, though the unprecedented freak-out that we have seen in response to it is certainly new.
Terrorist attacks are not new either. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, just as one example, there were numerous plane hijackings. Does anyone remember the Iran Hostage Crisis? Does anyone remember the almost constant news of suicide bombings that we used to hear about on the sidewalks of Israel?
I know for certain that I will never forget September 11, 2001. I had hardly been in the Washington, D.C. area a year when it happened. I had just visited New York the week prior and stood at the feet of the Twin Towers, amazed at how tall they were. I remember how, that morning, I bumbled into the office of the IRS task force I was working for, to see the police officers and IRS agents all transfixed by the TV screen. They were watching planes crashing into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. I remember being somewhat oblivious as I went with a colleague to pick up snacks for the office and seeing the smoke on the horizon – at the Pentagon. I remember it sinking in as I saw people pulling over on the side of the road to try to make phone calls from phone booths (we still had those) – because if you had a cell phone, they were not working. I remember thinking of my family on the west coast, and worrying that they would be hit next. I remember watching the news coverage of people jumping out of the Twin Towers so they would not burn to death. I remember wondering how it would have been to look out of your office window to see a plane coming right at you and knowing you would die – if there would even be time to think. I remember for days after the attacks how nice people became, and how much courtesy we all suddenly showed each other.
Let’s try not to forget so much. Let’s try to learn from history. Let’s learn how to research again and try to find facts, not just narrative. Let’s remember how to make our own decisions instead of blindly accepting someone else’s. Let’s try not to avoid subjects just because they might be unpleasant or upsetting to talk about or remember. For, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.