Starting around the second grade, we were required to go through the newspaper every weekend and find “current events” stories that we’d cut out and tape or staple to pieces of looseleaf paper and present in class. It was 1988 and some of the first news that I recall paying close attention to was the Bush/Dukakis election (although I have very clear memories of the Oliver North trial and asking “what’s a contra?”) and the summer Olympics (remember when both Olympics happened in the same year?).When I think about, say, the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco and Oakland, or the Exxon Valdez oil spill, or Tiananmen Square, I can see those newspaper clippings.
And yet I have such vivid memories of sitting with my sister and parents and watching the news reports of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Even at eight years old, there was a sense that history was happening. Having been born into a world in which the USSR, the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, and East Germany were things that just…were, it was surreal to imagine the world being different. I had never existed in a world in which East Germany was not a place. It was hard to imagine that the Berlin Wall had only been up for 28 years at that point. To my eight-year-old self, that was so long ago that it was history and always had been and always would be. Continue reading