He didn’t make it. We should have known. Why did he think he could make it? It is way too far for human to jump with a motorcycle. Evel Knievel tried today to jump the Fountain at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
It was the first day of January, 1968.
The new year started with full of promise and I am barely into it’s first day and already it was giving signs that things were about to change.
I sat playing on the living room floor with my best Christmas present a SPIROGRAPH, the newest and hottest toy of 1967. The news is blaring on the TV, but I don’t have time for that. I am just waiting for the news to get over, because my favorite show was coming on and I did not want to miss a minute of Mayberry RFD.
On that first day of 1968, I sat on the living room floor playing with my new toy. Waiting patiently for the my show to come on. Suddenly my eyes were filed with the glare of our black and white television showing images of lives lost in a war that was in some place called Vietnam.
This was something I did not anticipate. I did not see it coming. I was taken in by the images. I stopped playing with my toy and watched. It was at that moment that I realized that there was a world outside the confines of my neighborhood block.
On Walnut Street in tiny Oak Harbor, Ohio, the kids in my neighborhood had the same joys and troubles that kids were experiencing all over the America in 1960’s. In the mask of the innocence of the 1960’s, we learned early on that life can be hard. We had our share of fights, broken bones, stitches and bumps and bruises. We experienced the ache of disappointment when we lost an important game and the pangs of hurt over that first rejection from that special someone. We also experienced the sorrow of losing loved ones… even the loss of a brother. But we experienced nothing like the images I witnessed on that winter day.
My mother sheltered me in as much “innocence ” as she could. But times were changing. 1968 was a year that brought…
- Highest casualties in the Vietnam War. 16,592 Americans are killed in 1968.
- North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo, claiming the ship violated its territorial waters while spying.
- American civil rights movement: A civil rights protest staged at a white-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina is broken-up by highway patrolmen, leading to the deaths of 3 college students.
- Vietnam War: My Lai massacre – American troops kill scores of civilians.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities for several days afterward.
- U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California by Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy dies from his injuries the next day.
- Police clash with anti-war protesters in Chicago, Illinois, outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which nominates Hubert Humphrey for U.S. President, and Edmund Muskie for Vice President.
- Vietnam War: A Viet Cong officer named Nguyễn Văn Lém is executed by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese National Police Chief. The event is photographed by Eddie Adams. The photo makes headlines around the world, eventually winning the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, and sways U.S. public opinion against the war.
I was forced to acknowledge the pain that this life can give. In an instant the innocence of my childhood was taken from me. But then again…the innocence was never really there. I just wasn’t exposed to the pain and sorrow that generations of people all over the world had experienced.
Indeed, in 1968 I was introduced to more than my share of burdens…I had my memory closet filled with childhood failures, hurts, letdowns and disappointments. But sadly, I had my memory filled with images that made me grow up faster than I wanted.
40 years later, as I look back, I still feel the hurt of realizing that my innocence was taken on that New Years Day.
I know how bad it hurts to lose something I never really had.