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Brushing Up Against History

Daily Deviation
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By almcdermid   |   Watch
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Published: August 14, 2011
November 1963

I'm eight years old and sitting in class (I strangely recall that my seat was in the middle of second row, on the side away from the window), when the principal comes in to tell us that the president has been shot.

I do not know
what it means, but I know
that it scares me.

May 1968

My mother meets Senator Robert F. Kennedy while he is campaigning in San Francisco and gets his autograph.  I live with my father in a small town in Michigan, where every year leading up to Memorial Day, I sell paper poppies for the VFW.

blood-red poppies
blood of soldiers on the field
war has come home

December 1971  

I watch the news and see the body count, arranged like a scorecard. The numbers say we are winning, but one of those numbers is from our town, the only casualty that week. I don't know him, but I see his picture on the cover of Life Magazine.

I turn 17 the next month
and try to join the Marine Corp
my father will not sign

November 1973

As a small-town boy, seeped in the culture of World War II, I grow up thinking that each generation has its war and Vietnam is ours, but somehow do not realize, as I enter the U.S. Navy, that the war is all but over.

I have a draft card
but no understanding
of what it means

April 1975

The U.S.S. Haleakala is cruising to either Thailand or Singapore, with plans to duck across the equator to fulfill an ancient naval tradition. Instead, we are turned around and ordered to head for the coast of South Vietnam.  We cruise about forty miles out, refueling ships directly involved in Operation Frequent Wind. When it's over, we escort two aging freighters full of refugees as far as Guam.

Saigon falls
The war is over
At least for us

April 1976

I land at Clark Field  (now buried under the ash of Mt. Pinatubo), ride an American school bus through the Philippine countryside, to the U.S. Naval Station at Subic Bay, and take my place as a proper colonizer, two years service in a foreign land, doing what we do, imposing our will, the people under our boot seemingly glad for it.

To a 21-year-old year sailor
Neo-colonialism looks like
beer and brown-skinned girls

My first assignment is harbor patrol, driving the same river boats (minus the guns) that appear in the film Apocalypse Now.

Summer 1979

I'm once again in the South China Sea, this time aboard the U.S.S. Beaufort, once again heading for the equator, once again turned around, this time back to Subic Bay to recover a P-3 Orion aircraft that has crashed into the bay during takeoff.

Even in peacetime
the military is still
a dangerous job

That recovery complete, we are ordered back to the coast of South Vietnam, where many are risking death at sea to escape tyranny at home.  Another P-3 directs us to a boat floundering off the coast of Palawan. We bring the twenty-some refugees aboard and sink their crippled boat.

February 1981

Now serving aboard the USS Rathburne, we stop at the New Hebrides, now called Vanuatu, a country so new it does not yet have its own money.

as a footnote
I finally cross the equator
but forgo the hazing

I have only four months left to my enlistment and so now have no interest in naval traditions.

September 1983

Flight KAL 007 is shot from the sky by a Soviet MIG. With tickets bought and a job secured, I arrive in Seoul the following month.

I wasn't about to let
the Cold War change my plans.
I had places to go and
people to meet.

January 1986

Everyone says they know where they were when the Challenger exploded, dashing our hopes for space where across the sky. I did not, had to look it up.

In Japan at the time
with no TV, the news came late
and second hand

April 1995

Driving west on Interstate 40, I decide to bypass Oklahoma City, take the side roads instead, for the sake of photography.

west of the city
I return to the freeway
—the sirens rush past

September 2001

On that fateful morning, I'm working at the Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan. A few of us are standing around the fiction info station when we hear that a plane has hit the World Trade Center. This was the only news we have, so we aren't sure what it means; someone suggests a Cessna has clipped an antennae.

When we learned the truth
newsprint US flags appeared every window
motivated solidarity rather than patriotism.

In those first days
when the world was with us
it simply wasn't about that.

November 2008

My wife is in Mumbai on business so when I'm wakened by a call, I expect it to be her. However, it's a woman from her company, saying she'll connect me. I'm sleepy and confused, but she comes on the line and tells me she's okay.

having yet
to see the news
I ask her about
the food

She tells me there's been a terrorist attack, but that she'll be home soon.

March 2011

Living in Tokyo, one comes to accept earthquakes as a way of life, but this one is big (in Tokyo, it feels like a 7, when actually it's a 9, one of the largest quakes ever recorded). Still, with the cats already freaked out and hiding, nothing to do but stand in the doorway and wait it out.

earth and sea tremble
cherry blossoms too soon
swept away
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© 2011 - 2019 almcdermid
I assume that, sooner or later, History and I will meet head on.

notes
November 1963: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

May 1968: My mother received Kennedy’s autograph and snapped three pictures of him; he is assassinated the next week, on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. She still has the autograph and photos.

December 1971: The January 21, 1972 edition of Life Magazine read THE ONE BOY WHO DIED to the left of a portrait of SP4 Jerry N. Duffey. Sergeant Duffey (Posthumous Promotion) was killed by friendly fire on December 12, 1971.

November 1973: I successfully enter the U.S. Navy after first failing the physical due to scoliosis (abnormal sideways curvature of the spine). I petitioned the president and received a waiver. My enlistment ends in May 1981, 7 years, 6 months, and 3 days later.

April 1975: Saigon, the capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), fell to the People's Army of Vietnam (the army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam or North Vietnam) and the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War. The evacuation that followed, called Operation Frequent Wind, was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. For more information, see [link] [link]

April 1976: Clark Field is established as a U.S. Army fort in 1903, it became an air field in 1919, and was eventually expanded to become the largest U.S. military installation outside of the United States. [link] The eruption of Mount Pinatubo ([link]) in June of 1991 caused extensive damage leading to its closure. It was turned over to the Philippine government that November.

Subic Bay, located about 100km northwest of Manila, with its deep water and sheltered anchorages, is a natural choice for a military harbor. Despite its obvious strategic value, the Spanish, which had colonized the Philippines in the 16th century, did not develop it until the late 1800s, shortly before the colony passed to American control following the Spanish-American War (1898) and Philippine-American Wars (1899-1902). The Subic Bay Naval Station was eventually expanded to become the second largest U.S. military installation outside of the United States. [link]

Summer 1979: USS Beaufort (ATS-2) was a salvage and rescue ship active from 1972 until 1996, until sold to South Korea. It was based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. [link]

The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy in the 1960s. The aircraft is easily recognizable by its distinctive tail stinger or "MAD Boom", used for the magnetic detection of submarines. A total of 734 P-3s have been built, and by 2012, it will join the handful of military aircraft such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress that have served 50 years of continuous use with its original primary customer, in this case, the United States Navy. [link]

Events resulting from the Vietnam War led many people in Cambodia, Laos, and especially Vietnam to become refugees in the late 1970s and 1980s, after the fall of Saigon. In Vietnam, the new communist government sent many people who supported the old government in the South to "re-education camps", and others to "new economic zones." An estimated 1 million people were imprisoned without formal charges or trials. According to published academic studies in the United States and Europe, 165,000 people died in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's re-education camps. Thousands were abused, tortured, and executed. These factors, coupled with poverty and the total destruction of the country that happened during the Vietnam war, caused hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to flee the country.

February 1981: The USS Rathburne (FF-1057) was a Knox class frigate of the US Navy. Despite the different spelling, she was named for Continental Navy officer John Rathburn (1746-1782). The Rathburne was commissioned 1970, decommissioned in 1992, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995, and sunk as a target during fleet training exercise on 5 July 2002. [link]

The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia. Vanuatu was ‘discovered’ by the Spanish in 1605. France and Britain claimed parts of the chain in the 1880s, and in1906 agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides. Vanuatu gained its independence in July 1980. [link]

September 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was a Korean Air Lines civilian airliner that was shot down by Soviet interceptors on 1 September 1983, over the Sea of Japan, near Moneron Island just west of Sakhalin Island. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Lawrence McDonald, a sitting member of the United States Congress. The aircraft was en route from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage when it strayed into prohibited Soviet airspace around the time of a planned missile test. The Soviet Union initially denied knowledge of the incident, but later admitted shooting the aircraft down, claiming that it was on a spy mission and a deliberate provocation by the United States, to test the Soviet Union's military preparedness, or even to provoke a war. The United States accused the Soviet Union of obstructing search and rescue operations. The Soviet military suppressed evidence sought by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigation, notably the flight data recorders, which were eventually released eight years later after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The incident was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, and resulted in an escalation of anti-Soviet sentiment, particularly in the United States. [link]

28 January 1986: The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight. [link]

April 1995: The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was bombed by domestic terrorist on April 19, 1995. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil before the September 11, 2001 attacks. [link]

September 2001: [link]

November 2008: On 26Novemeber 2008, Islamic terrorists conducted more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city. The attacks resulted in 146 deaths, with 308 people injured. [link]

March 2011: A magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake struck off the coast of Japan at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi). It was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900. It was so powerful the island of Honshu was moved 8 feet eastward. The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako, Iwate, Tōhoku, in some cases traveling up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. In addition to loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami caused a number of nuclear accidents, primarily the ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents.
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Across the Sea and Around the Kotatsu
Spring Taco Rice Mom starts with rice. Japanese rice, one, two, three Japanese cup-fulls of rice grains into the cooker, because Sis eats a lot of this stuff. It's one of her favorite dishes, taco rice, and Mom's always happy to make it for her because it's the only way Sis will eat her tomatoes. But back to the rice. "You want to rinse at least three or four times, until the water's kind of clear," Mom says as she cups her hand under the cooker pot, letting the cloudy water wash over her hand. Rice cooking's easy though – just fill enough water to the point the rice's covered, punch in a time (or set it to "Quick Cook," which with our cre
F
Flights of Fancy
     Nature is best seen through a window. Cars are nice, but televisions give a better view. The important thing is to keep a window, any window, between you and wilderness. This is my strictest maxim, a rule of comfort I put aside only once, years ago. I spend most of my life expressing shock when friends say they're going on a hike or planning to camp out.      It took two hours for Leon to convince me to accompany him on a short ride to the hills. I thought it would be safe. Leon was a good friend. Though he knew that particular day was my day to hit the mall and hang out with the gi
D
Deja vu. Again.
I had moved here two weeks' ago, but had never visited this section of town so late at night. I had been invited to the pub by my neighbour, to make me feel welcome. An hour ago, she had phoned to say she had been asked to work overtime, and wouldn't be able to make it. Seeing as I was there, I drank a couple of cocktails. I was now walking back home. Drunken people yelled out across the street. A couple of cars drove by, their horns blaring as the inebriated stumbled into the road. A bright yellow car stopped, flashing its headlights. A woman in a red dress banged on the window. The passenger door was opened, and a shouting match started be
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Comments (97)
TheSilentKing15's avatar
Is this a true story? Or do I sound like an idiot? XD
Great work
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Thanks! It is a true story, and no, you don't sound like an idiot.
Reply  ·  
TheSilentKing15's avatar
Phew!
Well it's quite interesting
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
It's been over 5 years; I'm waiting for the next one. =P
Reply  ·  
jules-101's avatar
jules-101|Hobbyist Photographer
This is fantastic. I never connected the dots to your DA account here in all this time. Congratulations a few years late! :D
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Thanks so much. I also did not connect them They are connected now, which has inspired me to spend more time here and less time on fb (which is now mostly about the election). 
Reply  ·  
jules-101's avatar
jules-101|Hobbyist Photographer
Sometimes dots are smaller than bread crumbs and lots easier to lose ;)
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Yep, so true.
Reply  ·  
Forcedlactationlover's avatar
You're just enough younger than I am (some 7 years) to possibly not remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It was the first to impact my life the way the others seem to have struck you, as they did me. Eventful times, with implications and aftereffects still echoing throughout the world. One big difference is that no-one died during that event, although we seemed to be, for a week, 30 minutes away from nuclear war. It altered my perceptions of life, and its possibilities, like no event before or since (It was no help that I lived only two miles [by air] from a known target, a missile base).
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
I wish I could say I did remember it, but except for snippets, I can't get beyond the assassination, which I realized only later impacted me very deeply. My view power is quite cynical, and I now see the foundation was laid here. 

Have you written about this experience? 
Reply  ·  
Forcedlactationlover's avatar
Never in an organized essay form, but casually, yes. Also, it was discussed with my psychologist when we were talking about how various events in my life had affected my outlook. Not one of the causes of great optimism, although I often have a positive take on events. 
 There are at least two other seminal historical events that have marked me; as with you, the Kennedy Assassination. Also, the 9/2/01 attack.
I worked nights then, sleeping mornings. Getting up and going out that afternoon was a shock. Flags at half-staff for no known reason, and the Post Office being closed. Only when I got to the local liquor store, where I had sometimes worked part-time, did I find out what had happened. Worse, I personally knew some of the victims of the attack. We have lived in eventful times. (As have many others.)
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
You've no doubt heard the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

I keep dodging these events, but sooner or later, history may get me. That I now live on a volcano doesn't help.
Reply  ·  
cradleframe's avatar
cradleframe|Student General Artist
woah, i love this piece. Simple, powerful, evocative.....Nice
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Thanks so much. 
Reply  ·  
cradleframe's avatar
cradleframe|Student General Artist
welcome
Reply  ·  
Ellorna's avatar
Ellorna|Hobbyist Artist
This is amazing. Thank you for linking me to it. I absolutely would enjoy reading more.
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Thank you so much. Expanding it is in the works, though I've got other things to finish first. I'm glad you like it.
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Woah is good. I'll definitely take it. And thanks. Also, very sorry for the delay. I've been immersed in novel-writing and subsequently neglecting DA.
Reply  ·  
BrowncoatMando's avatar
This is so powerful, that you could have seen and done so much, that history has left such a mark on you.
I only remember the last 4 and only the last 3 with any clarity but these words, so simple and so powerful are a potent reminder.
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Thank you so much. Yes, when it hit that I'd been close to so much, I was actually surprised (though Challenger I have in there because so many people remember it and I do not). I suggest the you and any of your generation will have a chance to write similar things since we are living in momentous times. There's an ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. That's us. :lol:
Reply  ·  
amberelix's avatar
One of the few prose pieces I've wanted to finish. Very interesting.
Reply  ·  
almcdermid's avatar
almcdermid|Professional Writer
Thank you. I'm glad to hear that it pulled you along.
Reply  ·  
Emiko-CatOnFire's avatar
Emiko-CatOnFire|Student Traditional Artist
Very powerful, especially after what just happened..
Reply  ·  
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