Kieran Healy wrote back in April about how he always asks his undergrad students what the earliest major news event is that they can personally remember:
When I started teaching at Arizona, most students could remember the Challenger disaster. Then it was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then the first Gulf War. Then Bill Clinton’s first-term election. At the moment it is the Oklahoma City bombing. Soon it will be the death of Princess Diana.
The Oklahoma City bombing was in 1995, twelve years ago. Healy doesn’t say what year the undergrads are, so let’s assume that they’re freshman, about 18 years old. In 1995, they were about six.
The earliest news I can remember is the 1972 presidential election, when I was six. (I thought McGovern should win, since Nixon’d already had a turn.) I can also remember news about Watergate, and Skylab; those would have been ’73 and ’74. (As a young SF nerd, I was interested in the latter, and bored by the former.) I have memories going back farther than this, but they’re all of personal things in my life, not of news events. I can date them to age three or earlier only because my family moved around then, so any memory set in our old apartment, or my first nursery school, dates from that period.
Looking back over Wikpedia’s listing of events for 1971, and found one I thought I remembered: the Soyuz-Salyut docking. But I may be confusing it with the Apollo-Soyuz docking, which wasn’t till ’75.
I remember the World Trade Center being built, but I’m not sure exactly what stage of the process I remember. Tower One was finished in 1970, Tower Two in ’71, and the official ribbon-cutting was in ’73. This might be a memory from as early as age four (it goes with the new apartment), or as late as age seven (though it’s also entangled with a children’s show that I’d probably stopped watching by then).
I think I might remember the first flight of the Concorde SST, which was in 1970, when I was four.
Chris says she thinks she can remember Nixon’s resignation, right around the time of her sixth birthday. (How’s that for a present?) Is this common, that adults’ memories for current events start around age six? What’s the first news event that you can remember hearing about as it was happening, and how old were you at the time? Does anyone born after 1957 remember the JFK assassination happening?
Anyone have any twelve-year-old kids? Do they remember any news events earlier than 9/11?