Dates of Infamy

by Karen Topakian

Today is Pearl Harbor day. According to then President Roosevelt, it was “A date which will live in infamy.”

As a child, I couldn’t understand what that meant. My family talked about where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. How they huddled around the radio for updates and reports. About who signed up to join the military and who didn’t.

None of this made any sense to me. Why would it matter where you were or what you were doing when you heard the chilling news?

Until President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963. (Sitting in my 4th grade classroom in Cranston, RI)

I still was too young to grasp the significance until…

April 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

I clearly remember sitting in the front seat of my family’s Ford Country Squire station wagon listening to the radio while my mother drove us home from a Easter outfit shopping trip in downtown Providence.

News of his death bore down upon me in a way I hadn’t felt before. Probably because my Sunday school class at Woodridge Congregational Church had studied Dr. King and the civil rights movement. This one I took personally. 

My 13 year-old brain knew that his death meant a tremendous loss for a whole race of people.  I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill a man struggling for peace. 

My generation of baby boomers probably shares these same assassination moments as their dates of infamy.

In 2001, we all added another on September 11. 

I’m hoping there won’t be another date of infamy associated with death for a long, long time.