By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The world is not the same at this moment.
And it will be a while before we get back to “normal.” COVID-19/Coronavirus has canceled various events, suspended operations across the world and changed our daily behaviors. From China to Italy to the United States, we’re all exercising cautions.
We’re in a process over trying to allow optimism to rule the day over fear and panic. As our grocery stores try to supply toilet paper, meat and bread, we’re clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer and disinfecting products.
Coronavirus has dominated society and the news cycle. It was powerful enough to get the death of Kobe Bryant off our minds in the sports world and push the 2020 U.S. presidential election to the back page.
In my almost 39 years of life, there have been a few life-changing events. Some of them had my mind thinking of doom, like April 19, 1995, with the Oklahoma City bombing. April 20, 1999, started a horrible trend of school shootings after the events in Columbine, Colo.
Not all memorable dates are bad — some were moments that elevated mankind to a better place.
Below is my top 10 list of the biggest events that impacted my life since Sept. 7, 1981.
The Age of the Internet
Aug. 6, 1991
I have never owned an iProduct. But I will buy the cheaper knock-off versions in a heartbeat. Since my birth, technology has gone from Sony Walkmans to MP3 players to my cell phone.
I’m spoiled by all the luxuries we enjoy from tech. But the amazing things we can process via our mobile phones started almost 30 years ago with the launch of the World Wide Web. The creator of this was Tim Berners-Lee. When he posted a short summary of the project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, it gave birth to what is now fundamental to most across the world.
Aug. 23, 2005
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest storm in United States history, being eventually tied with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. But the cost of $125 billion in damage doesn’t compare to the nearly 2,000 lives taken or the horrible response to the disaster that played out on TV.
For a few days, there was a major city in the United States that looked like a third-world country. New Orleans was left to drown. But as I’ve learned about my country, we rally and bounce back from our shortcomings.
Relief came from the everyday citizens to the government. We learned a valuable lesson from that storm — that every life matters.
Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement
Nov. 7, 1991
I was freshly 10 years old, and my world consisted of the San Francisco 49ers, school, playing sports, eating and collecting player cards. My NBA collection was all about Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson. These guys were invincible and superhuman.
All that came to an end on Nov. 7, 1991. Not only did I have to see my heroes as human, but I also realized death was real.
After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Magic discovered that he had tested positive for HIV. The disease that leads to AIDS forced Magic to retire from the NBA immediately.
I went to bed that night with tears pouring out of my eyes, thinking Magic would be dead by sunrise. But when I woke up the next day, he was still alive. And like most U.S. Americans I quickly got educated on the disease and got answers to questions I didn’t even know I had.
Nov. 4, 2008
On Nov. 4, 2008, I was in my office filing away a story on the City of Millington’s mayoral race. Alongside my colleague Christina Morgan, we were getting our local elections’ coverage out to the masses. During that process we both kept an eye on the national election of who would be our 44th president.
I tried to play it cool and not focus too much on it. At stake was the possibility of the nation’s first African-American leader in Barack Obama.
As results were trickling in from all kinds of races, Christina shouts out, “He did it. Obama is president.”
Obama defeated the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona. Obama was the first African American elected president.
I pushed back from my desk and tried to collect my thoughts. Before I could grasp the impact, tears rolled down my face. It was a big moment not only for Obama but also for our country moving forward.
Feb. 4, 2004
Of course I ran to Facebook to post a thought about Obama’s victory that night. By that time, most U.S. Americans had a social media routine.
Today we have a generation that doesn’t know how to function in this world without Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok. The grandfather of social media, Myspace, was swarmed by the still-strong Facebook in 2004.
Thanks to the platform of Facebook, social media is the No. 1 activity on the internet. It took Facebook less than 9 months to reach 100 million users. Social media is a part of everyday life now and how we stay informed mostly.
Berlin Wall coming down
Nov. 9, 1989
Back to when my life was simple, I woke up one fall morning ready to watch some cartoons. But NBC’s Tom Brokaw interrupted my routine with “breaking news.”
Instead of seeing animated characters, I saw a nation animated about uniting again. I had no clue that since 1961 a structure was built to divide Germany into East and West.
The Berlin Wall was a physically and ideologically guarded concrete barrier. The wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany.
Then one night that wall that stood for almost 30 years was attacked by love and the pursuit of freedom. When the wall came down in 1989, it signified the end of communist rule and the birth of the voice of the people.
I didn’t realize I was witnessing a revolution and the power of the people. And another lesson: Love will conquer hate — eventually.
Deaths of 2009
When a celebrity passes away, we can take it personally, depending on how he or she impacted our lives. Sometimes we’re too embarrassed to admit we cried over the death of some famous person.
But 11 years ago, there were so many notables passing I can guarantee 90 percent of us shed a tear over at least one of these people: Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, Brittany Murphy, Billy Mays, Farrah Fawcett, Bea Arthur, Natasha Richardson, John Hughes, Les Paul, Ted Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Dom DeLuise, David Carradine, Ed McMahon, John Updike, Mary Travers, Paul Harvey, Oral Roberts and Frank McCourt.
Michael Jackson’s death in June of that year was a shocker. But saying goodbye to my favorite Golden Girl, Bea Arthur, made me cry.
Start of Desert Storm
Aug. 2, 1990
The Gulf War was the first “real” war of my lifetime. Vietnam was fresh on people’s minds when I was born. Then the Cold War between the USSR and USA was fought mostly through policies and Hollywood movies.
But when President George H.W. Bush declared war in the Middle East, it was the first time I saw coverage of combat on my TV.
March 11, 2020
This story is still being written. I’m praying it will be shorter than experts believe, as the hot months are on the horizon. That will give doctors time to get a vaccine to help cure this version of coronavirus and save lives.
Before the diagnosis of NBA player Rudy Gobert earlier this month, the disease was just another crazy thing affecting the rest of the world. But when it hit the NBA and the United States, it quickly changed our way of life.
From second to second, policies are adjusted, event are postponed for April and May and unprecedented moves are being made. If it all seems to be on the fly, it really is because we’ve never endured something like this before in our lifetime.
But we’ll survive this like other scary moments. And we’ll be the wiser for it. I hate that we have to suffer some and even lose people in order to be educated. Also we have to learn to appreciate life and each other more.
9/11 Terrorist attacks
Sept. 11, 2001
Speaking of a moment that galvanized the country, changed our outlook on everyday life, still impacts us today and eventually had some good — the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Where were you on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001? If you are old enough, that answer takes less than a second. The U.S. had experienced attacks with the use of airplanes on landmarks in New York City and Washington D.C. Thousands of American lives were taken on American soil. It was a huge wakeup call of how close we are as a world and how fundamentally a part we are as a world.
Policies were instituted that still affect us today, and 9/11 has a reach we can’t measure. It is clearly our Pearl Harbor, Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassination or American Revolution.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.