Then I got to thinking about my own lifetime, during which some very important, historic events have also occurred. It's that way for everyone. I could go all the way back to events like the moon landing, the war in Viet Nam, and Watergate, but let's not even mention those. Instead, let's just consider the events of the last 32 years. For me, some of these events are forever tied to my career in teaching.
Another big national event came in 1995, during my fifth and final year in Oklahoma City. I've written many times about the terrorist bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, four and a half miles from our school. After this event, I had to counsel my second graders daily. This was the first terrorist attack on American soil, and we had some learning to do concerning how to address such an issue. I felt like I was quite successful with my honest and open approach, and my students reacted very positively.
Sometime afterward, there were anthrax attacks - mostly not real, but frightening nevertheless. I remember getting book orders with special messages explaining the white powdery residue that often accompanies books.
A difficult election came five years later, when George W. Bush was declared the winner after many ballots had to be recounted - especially thousands in Florida. The term "hanging chads" drew a lot of skepticism and criticism at the time, and it seemed like the nation stayed in limbo for a while - as if we would never know the outcome of the election.
I had a few flashbacks to the '95 bombing when, in 2001, planes were flown into skyscrapers in New York, as well as into the Pentagon and an empty Pennsylvania field. That attack turned the nation on its ear, and none of us was in the mood for the uncertainty that came with it. The War on Terror commenced shortly after, with attacks in Afghanistan and Shock and Awe in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his sons were captured and executed in Iraq, and Osama Bin Laden was also captured and killed in a secret raid.
Many of us remember the Joplin tornado in 2011. That was a year that was cut short for my fourth graders in Joplin, Missouri. One hundred sixty-eight of our friends and neighbors lost their lives to the storm, eight of them being students from other schools in the district. The following year was one of my favorites, even as we dealt with families who had lost their houses, their possessions, and their loved ones. One student still have shrapnel in his head that year, after being thrown across the street from his house and losing his mother in the tornado.
Lots of things happened in 32 years, but one of the worst came last, in 2020, when again, our school year was cut dramatically short with the pandemic. Coronavirus Disease 2019 devastated our national economy and is still assisting the deaths of many people around the world. Face masks were the norm, and we talked a lot about "social distancing".
In 2022, we experienced another contentious election, and the anger over the controversial ballot counting methods and questionable overnight events sparked a run on the capital in Washington, DC.
Some of these events are still being felt in our world, as high gas prices and unprecedented inflation are strangling our country, and faltering national morals are infiltrating and just about every aspect of society.
We could talk about a few mass shootings, a number of them in schools around the country and one that was averted with no injuries in our own Memorial Middle School which was, thankfully thwarted when the gun itself jammed.
It has all happened within the last 32 years, and I've taught kids through or around them all. It's no more than any other teacher has done. We tend to step up when facing horrible situations. We tend to face problems head on without thanks. Teachers are often the unsung heroes who help guide children through terrible situations that have the possibility of becoming mental health catastrophes. We talk kids through issues they shouldn't have to face. I am pretty pleased with my own effectiveness, but I fear I could have accomplished more.