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Intimate casualties.

In more than six decades on this planet, I’ve really only seen the world as I know it change a couple of times.

  • November 22, 1963—I was nine years old. Our family had recently moved, so I was in a new school. My teacher, Miss Waters, had been especially kind about making sure I fit in, and I thought she was the second most beautiful woman in the world, next to my mother of course. There was a knock at our classroom door and when she came back, Miss Waters told us school was closing for the day because John Kennedy, President of the United States, had just been shot. People have their own memories of that day, but I will always see the second most beautiful woman in the world standing in front of our classroom, crying.

    John F. Kennedy Jr., 3, salutes his father’s casket Nov. 25, 1963

  • July 20, 1969—As a teenager, I woke up that morning in the only world where human destinies had ever played out. In the afternoon, I sat in our family room with my brothers and sisters staring transfixed at our little (black and white) TV while Neil Armstrong took that small step for man and that giant leap for mankind. I knew the truth—our fathers had made the world safe by winning World War II, we had just won the Space Race, and America was the greatest country in the world. By the time I went to bed, instead of living on a planet, I now had a universe.

    “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”—Neil Armstrong

  • September 11, 2001—As a working mother, I had just dropped my daughter at school and was heading to my office when I heard the first reports on the radio. The announcer didn’t know what had happened exactly, but it seemed that a plane had crashed into one of New York’s iconic Twin Towers. We turned on all the televisions in the conference rooms and nobody even pretended to work as we watched first one and then the other tower collapse, followed by attacks on the Pentagon, and then the passenger-deflected fourth crash. Our generation couldn’t make America safe, but by the time I went to bed, the rest of the world’s emotional support made us all Americans.

    Twin Towers collapse.

  • 2020—This time it was a whole year, and then some as the world stopped. 400,000 Americans died in a pandemic that killed two million worldwide. Families reeled from devastating blows of isolation, economic stress, and ultimate loss. And through it all, an American president abandoned leadership in favor of promoting baseless conspiracy theories, tweeting hatred, denying science, and finally calling for insurrection. 

    A man smokes a cigarette with his eyes covered by a face mask as he takes part in a protest against the use of protective masks. [Image credit: sciencetimes.com]

  • Three Wednesdays of January, 2021—Insurrection, Impeachment, Inauguration. With the rest of the country and the world, we watched the President of the United States spout baseless conspiracy theories about what his own appointed officials called the fairest election in history, while calling on supporters to march to the capitol, stand, and fight. The world watched as rioting supporters broke into the nation’s center of government, screaming their intentions to capture and kill members of Congress. What a civil war hadn’t accomplished, what thousands died to prevent, occurred that day as the Confederate flag, symbol of white supremacy and slavery, flew for the first time in the United States capitol building. A week later, the President was impeached for a record-setting second time.

    Confederate flag in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021

Today, a president who promises healing, and a vice-president who is a woman of color, will be inaugurated.

To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. —Joe Biden. 

Tribute to over 400,000 victims of the coronavirus pandemic, on the evening before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in as president and vice-president.

And the world will change.