Monday, July 18, 2011

HISTORY AND MY JOB

Thirty years ago this evening, my wife and I sat in front of our television watching the terrifying images being sent from the Hyatt Regency hotel as over one hundred people died in an horrific engineering failure.  It would make the news across the nation and become one of the deadliest disasters of the twentieth century.  It was not caused by weather or terrorists, but rather by an architectural firm that had tried to cut corners on design and costs when building the luxury hotel.

I began thinking about that.  It was in 1981.  It was before we adopted Brett.  Before I saw Sinatra perform.  I began to think about how many historical events I have witnessed while working at my current job.  It turns out that my job and myself have witnessed a ton of history.  There is so much that has happened since I walked through the doors of this company in December of 1979 that I can not make a complete list of them.  I decided to list the ones that pop out in my memory as the big ones that happened while i was sitting at this desk.

I suppose the first one that sticks out in my mind was the failed rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran by President Carter.  It was a dismal failure and one that left us all thinking how long these citizens of the United States would be held captive and wondering if they would live through the ordeal.  The failed attempt was not by any means the only reason that President Carter was not re-elected but I believe it certainly sat in peoples memories as they went to the polls when the President was trying to win a second term.

I witnessed the election of President Reagan from this desk and all of the history that the Reagan administration brought to the history of this country.  The Soviet Union was dismantled and the Berlin Wall was torn down.  We fought a short "war" in Granada during that time as well.

Wars have come and gone since I came to work here.  The Persian Gulf War that was triggered by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was played out.  President Clinton sent a "peace keeping" force to Bosnia without getting approval from congress and was rather successful at it.  The Iraqi War and the Afghan war have also taken place as I continued my work here.

We watched the first shuttle launch from this company.  We even had a pot as to when it would occur.  When the final launch date was set, a person in the department that we use to play a lot of pranks on was looking to be the winner.  To continue our pranks on this poor gentleman we exchanged all the money into coins and spent a morning bending them just slightly so that they would not be accepted by any vending machines.  At the last moment the launch was scrubbed until a later day meaning our prank target was not going to win the pot after all.  We spent a good deal of a day trying to straighten out coins for Pat, who would be the eventual winner of the pot when the shuttle finally did launch.

I saw the Space Shuttle explode that terrible morning a few years later as the boosters ignited to leave the shuttle killing all members of the crew.  I watched in horror as another shuttle many years later broke up and burned entering the atmosphere over Texas, kill all of that crew as well.  And I watched the last shuttle mission take place and return home safely.  The whole shuttle program was run from start to finish as I worked for the company.

The floods of seventy seven that tore the Plaza apart as Brush Creek ran out of its concrete banks commencing changes in the layout of Brush Creek making it a more of a river walk than a concrete stream happened.  The floods of ninety three when both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers did terrible destruction all through their respective valleys effect us personally as our offices were flooded by a tributary to the Missouri, the Blue River.  It took us almost two weeks to clean up the office from the ninety three floods.

Also in ninety three, terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in New York.  Sadly it was a sign of things yet to come but I remember sitting there watching all the people streaming out from the buildings and thinking that it was a Godsend that the bomb had not done what the terrorists wanted it to do.

Also in ninety three was the great stand off at Waco, Texas where a group of religious zealots barricaded themselves inside their compound for weeks until the government tried to storm their sanctuary and for some reason a fire erupted killing dozens of men, women and children in the process.   It was a sad disaster that a lot of people think could have been avoided.  Not being sure how the fire started we can't say for sure if it could have been avoided or not.

Two years later in an act of retaliation for the events at Waco, a man set a seven thousand pound bomb off in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City.  Over a hundred people were killed in what was truly an American terrorists act upon the United States.  It was hard to fathom a citizen of the United States performing a terrorist act upon our country, but it happened.  The United States is just as vulnerable as any other country on the face of the earth.

Case in point of that was the events of September 11, 2001.  My wife called me at the office that morning and told me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Buildings.  I remember thinking that was odd but not out of the question.  I supposed it could happen.  Then she called again to say another plane had hit another building at the WTC.  I remember telling her "So, this is a terrorist thing."  And it sunk into my soul that we were truly a country that had a huge target on our back and that a good portion of the responsibility for that target being placed there was our own doing.  It was while I was working at this job that the United States assassinated the man considered responsible for the 9-11 terror.

I have seen a President commit perjury to a federal grand jury, lie to the American people and put the country at risk all for an extramarital affair that he probably could have waited for until he was out of office.  I saw this president be acquitted on strictly partisan votes.

I watched as the Simpson murder crime and trial seemed to go all the wrong way and watched as a young mother named Casey seemed to get away with the murder of her child.  The system worked in both cases, just not the way we expected it to work.

All of this history plus a lot more as I have sat at this desk working for over thirty years.  So much has happened that have shaped not only my thinking but the way I carry out my job.  We have a lot of government contracts and a lot of them have to do with what the United States is up to around the globe.

This little list just scrapes the surface of the historical events that have occurred while I sat in my seemingly steady job.  To me it is amazing how history continues to move without resting.   History is writing something down every minute of every day.  Sometimes they are little events that blossom into huge events.  Sometimes the little events stay little and are not thought of often.  Then there are those huge events which effect all of our every day lives and changes the course that history was on before they happened.

To me it was an amazing realization of how may things can happen in such a short period of time.  Thanks for letting me share them with you.

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