What Historical Event Has Touched You Most?

When I was in third grade, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There was a lot that I didn’t grasp about the death of this extraordinary man, but I surely understood what a terrible injustice and loss this violence was for America and the world. Five days later, on April 9, 1968, his funeral was televised, and my teacher showed the all-day event to the class. I particularly recall the stoic elegance of his widow, Coretta Scott King, behind her black veil. I also remember refusing to go outside for lunchtime recess; I felt I had an obligation to stay inside and watch. Less than two months later, Robert F. Kennedy, who attended King’s funeral, would also be gone, taken by another assassin’s bullet.

Many years later, in December 1991, I was in Finland when the Soviet Union officially ended. I obviously wasn’t around for the birth of the USSR and the rise of world communism, but I had a chance to witness this end. I subsequently spent months in Moscow to learn what happens when one day you wake up and your country no longer exists. Those were strange and uncertain days—not only because a month’s salary now would barely buy a couple of Snickers bars—but because you would see how people’s lives were turned upside down: A former brain surgeon was dealing cards in a casino. A former schoolteacher was working as a prostitute. Security guards in camouflage fatigues and holding Kalashnikov rifles were standing outside newly opened stores and restaurants. Mothers lined Metro stations to sell most anything and collect a few rubles—a cup, a spoon, unopened silk stockings, a child’s doll. I knew then that most Russians yearned for a normal, stable life and the opportunity to live better.

Those are just two. There are many others that still linger for me. But what about you? What historical event in your lifetime has touched you most? And why? Given the unfolding horrors in Ukraine and the unpredictable consequences for Europe and the globe, this feels like a moment to pause and reflect on how world events can affect us personally. As always, this is a chance for this community to hear from and learn from each other.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Saturday.

Share America, America

Why not become a paid subscriber and join our live book talk on March 18? We’ll be discussing Jamie Raskin’s bestseller, Unthinkable.

Photo: The procession bearing the coffin of Martin Luther King Jr in Atlanta, Georgia, April 9, 1968. Photo by Santi Visalli/Archive Photos/Getty Images.