Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Living History

with 3 comments

With the onset of this current global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting financial repercussions underway, it is becoming obvious the incidents and impacts of these days will be noted in historical records for future reference. What is it like to live through national or global newsmaking events as they are happening?

I don’t really know.

And I’ve lived through plenty of them.

Life just seems to go on. People who don’t lose their lives or family members and friends find ways to adjust to temporary impacts on normal routines and employ a wide range of coping mechanisms to get on with doing whatever needs to be done. In the moments, it often doesn’t seem quite so historic on the personal level. It’s the collective impact of large segments of a population and the subsequent mass media accounting of details that tend to provide a bigger significance to things.

Even with that, being alive during historic circumstances never seems to feel as significant in the moment for me as I expect it should.

In my life, the impacts of newsworthy events haven’t been particularly acute. They are often shocking, such as the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster or the terrorist attacks against the United States in September of 2001, but none completely life-altering. Even for Cyndie, who was flying frequently in 2001, the change to her routine was short-lived with respect to the immediate grounding of flights for a time and then only minorly impacted after flights resumed.

I remember the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee by followers of the American Indian Movement and feeling like it was a significant event at the time, but it was really just a story on the news from where I lived.

As the 444 days of the Iran hostage crisis played out between 1979-1981, it felt awful to carry on with my activities as if nothing was amiss, but there really was no noticeable impact on my life beyond seeing a lot of yellow ribbons tied around trees in symbolic support of the hostages.

In 2008, there was what is now referred to as “the Great Recession” which just might end up comparing to the current financial “correction” in the markets. It’s possible we are about to experience the recession of 2020. Maybe it won’t be as “great.” I somehow plodded through the years surrounding the Great Recession with minor suffering. My net worth wasn’t so large that I had all that much value to lose and we were lucky enough to be in a position that our homeownership wasn’t threatened.

Somewhere in my collection of family history, I have the original “Quarantine” sign that was attached to my father’s home when he was [I believe] 12-years-old and contracted polio. That seems like a significant event for my father and his family, yet I don’t recall him ever mentioning it. The amount of subsequent paralysis he experienced from that was virtually imperceptible. Without my mother having mentioned it and giving me the sign the family had saved from his door, I wouldn’t have known.

I don’t really know what it’s like to live through historic events, even though that’s what I’m doing right now.

Maybe it’s simply like living the life that I’m living.



Written by johnwhays

March 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. As schools and universities close their doors, this is about to create the last push towards virtually learning: so much cheaper, so much more efficient in terms of learning and travel, and no need for contagion and seasonal illness. In the world of work, too, we are likely to see a similar trend, where costs can be slashed… so much work today can just as easily be done from home, especially as much manual work is already automated….Yes, a big step towards a greener, non-polluting world. And who knows we may even be able to spend some quality time with our families… at last:-)

    Ian Rowcliffe

    March 10, 2020 at 9:18 am

    • It’s not hard to imagine the possibility this global event will trigger a greater shift from the previous status quo. Oh how I would welcome a shift to more quality time with family!


      March 10, 2020 at 6:59 pm

      • Yes, every cloud does have a silver lining if you are open to it…

        Ian Rowcliffe

        March 11, 2020 at 4:56 pm

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