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More Than Just Numbers

I have never been a whiz at figures. As early as first grade I realized my strong points were geared more toward words and vocabulary.

That does not mean that numbers, especially dates, have not been important in the greater scheme of my life.

I often wondered why we were made to memorize “important” dates in history in lieu of simply knowing why certain dates were worth remembering.

If you ask anyone in the baby boomer crowd what he or she remembers about Nov. 22, 1963, they will immediately tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On that date, the actions of an assassin changed our world forever.

As a 9-year-old grade school student, I remember seeing nuns at our school cry.

If that death was not horrific enough, two more assassinations of prominent people followed. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead on April 4, 1968. I remember the date well as it was the day of my Confirmation at St. Michael Catholic Church. Our celebration soon took a somber tone as we watched the TV reports of the murder.

Only two months later, the country would again be sickened by the senseless shooting death of Robert Kennedy, brother of the slain president. It was on June 6, 1968 in California that we saw pictures of Robert’s wife, Ethel Kennedy, cradling her husband as he lay dying on the floor.

There were good news dates to remember, too.

On July 20, 1969, a sleepy country watched as astronauts landed on the moon. It was such an historic event that prompted a young generation to look skyward with even greater amazement.

Six years later on Jan. 27, 1973, the United States ended its involvement in the highly criticized war in Viet Nam.

It was a bittersweet time.

The list of dates for other U.S. military involvements could fill this column, but let’s jump to 20 years ago when the events of Sept. 11, 2001 will be forever burned in the minds of all of us who are old enough to remember. It was on that day we watched terrorists deliver the murderous attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and at the nation’s Pentagon.

Once again, history books need to explain not just when it happened, but why and how the people of the United States reacted to that day. Next weekend’s 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks will be filled with tributes and remembrances.

To this day, I find it difficult to recall the date without being filled with anger, tears and trepidation.

As we observe the anniversary, there is another number — 13 — we need to pay tribute to as well. We can never forget the 13 U.S. troops that gave their lives aiding those exiting Afghanistan just a few short weeks ago. They were more than just a number for the history books.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.


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