By: Roy Berger, MedjetAssist President & CEO
Everyone has their own watershed moment. A moment in time where everything changes. A point when nothing after will ever be the same as before.
In American history we all have a watershed moment that has impacted us. Perhaps not personally, but certainly emotionally.
Venturing a guess, this year’s incoming college freshman class would have been the youngest group impacted by 9/11/01. They would have been seven or eight and old enough to remember.
Those behind them probably don’t have that watershed moment in history yet and other than positive memories, let’s keep it that way!
I did some MedjetAssist office polling and virtually everyone I spoke with- 21 years old into their 60’s- said without a doubt 9/11 was their impact moment.
Mine wasn’t. 9/11 for certain is a day I will never forget, not only for the disaster and chaos we witnessed but I was in Washington D.C. at the time and actually drove past the Pentagon as it was burning from the wreckage of American Airlines Flight 77. Somehow that evening I found an Amtrak heading south and 16 hours later was home in Birmingham, AL while everyone’s world was still spinning. A day I too will never, ever forget.
However my watershed moment was November 22, 1963 the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was an impressionable 11 year old in sixth grade on Long Island. Without the communication channels and advancement we have today, we were left to wonder subject to our own ears and someone else’s eyes.
I still shake going back to that day and vividly remember thinking who could do something like that and why? How could this happen? I was asked to leave the classroom and take something to the office and to this moment remember being afraid that the shooter was pacing the school hallways. All we had was an announcement at about 1:30 PM eastern time that our President was shot. We knew nothing more until we got home a couple of hours later, found out the President had died and watched Walter Cronkite chain smoke on air trying to fill in the many blanks our rather primitive communication means told us.
The 9/11 experience was totally different as we were able to witness the attack and reactions virtually in progress. We could see for ourselves what was happening and as real as it was we still didn’t know who or why?
November 22 was a country in fear; 9/11 was a world in panic.
Two different sets of circumstances but two lasting impressions and memories. Unfortunately for anyone under 60 years of age, November 22, 1963 is barely a historical footnote anymore. That is very, very sad as our world changed that day soon followed by racial strife, the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy – an America that has never been the same as it was when the Kennedy camelot was still alive on November 21, 1963. That day our innocence as a nation was truly lost.
In fact had lunch this week with a gal, 57, and asked her the watershed moment question. She reeled off three events: JFK, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and 9/11. When pressed she said the JFK assassination had the most impact because of her age and she remembered running home from school “so my Mommy could tell me it wasn’t true”. She knew the year but had no immediate recollection of the November 22 date.
Pick up a newspaper this upcoming November 22 and you’ll be hard pressed to even find an acknowledgement of the 1963 anniversary. Very sad. Fortunately our 9/11 memory will always be kept alive not only due to the mass destruction and the world impact but the ability to memorialize the events on video.
As we approach the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I began to make my September travel plans and stopped for a minute looking at my schedule. I then became conflicted. How best to honor the memories of those we not only lost in 2001 but those still with us that suffered devastating personal losses on that day as well?
What is protocol? Do we go ahead in the name of democracy and freedom and travel on 9/11 to show the terrorists they might have tried but they truly can’t stop us from life close to normal? Or do we take a one day travel moratorium to honor those we lost?
I made my decision. What would you do?