It was a dark and stormy Friday night, December 21, 2012. The pouring-down rain mixed with snow and ice, making the roads extremely hazardous. I had just gotten home from fighting the crowds at the mall.
Christmas was close at hand, and still many presents were left to be bought before wrapping things up prior to the following Tuesday; all while forgetting about what day it was: the Mayan calendar had almost run out. The resulting apocalypse was about to begin, and doomsday was only two days away.
However, this topic has been visited many times over; and come January 1, 2013, the rest of this tale will have lost its relevance, as we’ll all be waiting for the next doomsayer to predict our proverbial rapture, while nursing our dreadful hangovers from New Year’s Eve.
How many devastating events, paired with what this writer was doing when the incidents occurred, can I list in this essay? John Kennedy’s November 1963 assassination would have to be my first biggie. I was just a youngster at the time and actually don’t remember much about it, but recall everybody’s being sent home from school early that Friday; and all programming on TV covered only the tragic event, which lasted all weekend long with no other programs being broadcasted.
I have recollections of Martin Luther King’s assassination in April 1968, hearing about it on my father’s car radio, coming home from my Saturday afternoon’s baseball game.
A bad time for tragedies, 1968 brought about Bobby Kennedy’s getting shot in June of that year. My high-school class was scheduled to go on an end-of-the-academic-year field trip to an amusement park that day, but it was canceled in respect for the slain New York senator, who had died overnight at a hospital in Los Angeles.
My first really heavy-petting session, finally making that illustrious home run, Meatloaf style, coincided with the Apollo 11 moon landing on a hot July night in 1969. I remember watching Neil Armstrong on the TV set in the living room of where my sweetheart was babysitting, relishing my own giant leap forward onto unexplored territory.
In the following month, I was bummed out about my older brother’s trekking to Bethel, NY, or Woodstock; angry that he wouldn’t allow me to tag along to the Aquarian Exposition for three days of “Peace and Music.”
What about the Watergate affair? I was rebuilding the engine of my girlfriend’s car in her father’s garage when Nixon took to the airwaves for announcing his resignation on another infamous August date, but this one took place in 1974.
Elvis Presley died in August 1977. I learned about it while walking into work for my 7-to-midnight shift at a radio station in East Tennessee. Everybody was visibly shaken over the news.
Later that year on October 20, 1977, I had the grim chore of announcing the plane crash and resultant deaths of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines.
When John Lennon was shot in December of 1980, I was on the air as well, and made the brutal announcement of my greatest hero’s demise, very saddened by the irony of having just put on, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” from the White Album.
The memory of my listening to that tune while in the newsroom after the bells of the teletype rang to alert me of the horrific casualty still lay distinctly fresh as if it happened only yesterday.
Nineteen eighty-one was another crazy year. In March Ronald Reagan was shot. I was in a bar at the time eating lunch between classes at East Tennessee State University. Poor Richard’s Deli was the name of the bistro, whose TV relayed the news.
May of ’81 provided the attempted killing of Pope John Paul II, another time during which I learned about it in the pub; but this time was at happy hour in Alcatraz. Needless to say, my college years were somewhat of a blur, albeit a lot of fun. Who would have ever thought that someone would try to knock off the Pope?
Another August occurrence was the unexpected death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. I was driving into work, having just stopped at the WaWa convenience store for my infusion of morning coffee to satisfy my caffeine fix, getting my blood sugar flowing, when the shocking report blared over the radio.
The DJ played a barrage of Grateful Dead tunes following his announcement, helping to soften the blow on my way in.
September 11, 2001, had to be the granddaddy of them all. I was sitting at my desk at work when one of my service technicians called in and asked if I was watching television. “No,” I said. “Why, you didn’t get into a wreck on the Long Island Expressway, did you?” I expected him to say he was on Channel 7′s Traffic Cam.
The tech nervously laughed and said, “I don’t know what’s happening, but I think it’s terrorism or something. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”
Being hooked up to the Internet, I watched until both towers collapsed to the ground. All the employee’s in my office witnessed the horrendous melee on their computer screens. It was the day that had effected the way we were to live our lives in this country from that point onward.
Many more events can be listed: the bombardment of Baghdad, or Shock and Awe in 2003; the Madrid train bombings in 2004; the 2005 bombings in London, and the list goes on and on while, thank goodness, you and I are still alive.
So, getting back to the apocalypse, as a friend’s e-mail signature reads, “When you get raptured, can I have your car?” If not, how about your blue-suede shoes?