10 Moments in History I Wish I Could Experience

Last night as we watched a documentary on the history of street gangs, I suddenly realized I wished I could pick moments in the past and go back to experience them. History is full of great stories, important moments, and it would be great (and also scary) to actually experience them. 

Chris and I came up with a partial list last night. These are not in any particular order. And also, there aren’t 10. That’s because we had to stop talking about it before we came up with 10 moments–you’ll see why.

#1 I’d like to be at the Boston Tea Party.  Imagine the fear and excitement sweating out of people’s pores as they got carried away in their anger against taxation without representation. Imagine the harbor turning black with tea leaves. Imagine the stolid Puritans dressed like Indians and hooting in indignation,  “Nyah to you, old King George” and “Take that, Great Britain.”

mandela#2  I’d definitely want to be in South Africa in 1994, on the day Nelson Mandela won the first democratic elections in the history of the country and was voted in as the first black president of South Africa. I’d like to see the lines of elderly black people who suffered under apartheid for fifty years waiting to vote. I’d want to get carried away, joining the women ululating and dancing the toyi-toyi in jubilation.

#3 Chris said he’d like to see Nero playing his violin  and watching Rome burn down to the ground.  (This website says there were no violins in Rome at the time. But the image is a striking one. ) 

#4 I said I’d like to be in Jerusalem during the 3 days after Jesus died. “Just to see what really happened,” I said.

“Yeah,” Chris said. “I’d be standing in front of that tomb on the third day. You couldn’t drag me away from it.”

#5 Both of us wanted to be there for the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the day President Lincoln declared that American slaves had been set free.

nazi-at-large-4#6 Chris said he’d like to be with WWII troops as they liberated people from the concentration camps in Germany at the end of World War II.

“Can you imagine?” I said. “No matter what you’d heard about it, nothing could prepare you for the sight of these starving people wearing smocks in 3 feet of snow. The gas chambers. The bodies piled up.”

“That’s why some of the troops went crazy and just lined up the Nazi soldiers and executed them on the spot,” Chris said. “They recognized that what the Nazis had done was totally insane and inhumane and they said to themselves, ‘You don’t deserve to live.'”

“Don’t you think some of the things going on since then are just as bad?” I asked. “I mean, Rwanda. Saddam Hussein.”

“Maybe, but the Nazis experimented on people. I mean, they made lampshades out of human skin. Who the **** does that?” Chris asked.

The conversation quickly deteriorated into a depressing discussion of human cruelty and what our responsibility is to stop these kind of inhumane acts. And that is why we never made it past #6 on the list. The human lampshades did it.

Still, I’d like to hear from others. What are 10 moments in history you’d like to witness? Or what’s your top moment, the one historic moment you wouldn’t want to miss if you could be there?

Comments 14

  1. Nadine Laman

    The landing on the moon, from the first planning session to the last post session.

  2. Jess

    Nice one. I also forgot to mention that it would be cool to be there when the Aztecs built Chaco Canyon….or Mesa Verde…Man, so many I forgot to mention!

  3. Aja

    I’ve often thought about this, and it occurred to me that, first of all, I’d have to be a completely different person. I would love to see #5 on your list, but me being me, that would be an unbelievably frightening time to be in. Unless there was some sort of instant escape hatch, see the moment, get the hell out kind of thing, that one would have to be out.

    I have, however, always wanted to meet the people who have inspired me in my life. For example, I would love to meet Langston Hughes and be there during the Harlem Renaissance, which admittedly isn’t a specific historical moment.

    But, for specific historical moments without regard to my race and/or gender (just off the top of my head)
    * Moon landing
    * Watching the Egyptian pyramids being built
    * The March on Washington
    * Any Fredrick Douglass speech
    * Seneca Falls Convention
    * Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech
    * I also think it would be incredible to listen to the ancient Greek philosophers.

    And, I’m sure a million more that I can’t think of right now. Great question, Jess! I’ll be thinking about this all day.

  4. Jess

    Hey, which March on Washington? (There have been several…???) And why?

  5. J.L. Powers

    I’m assuming you meant….the civil rights one?

  6. Aja

    Yeah, the Civil Rights one, more specifically (since there have been many civil rights marches on Washington) the 1963 one where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

    I hate, hate, hate crowds, so just being there would have been an exercise in sustaining my mental health. But, the energy of that day, and the impact it continues to have amazes me and makes me wish that I could have shared just a tiny piece of it. I also like the idea that it was The March for Jobs and Freedom. Sometimes I feel that King’s contribution to the labor movement is so overlooked.

    As an aside, I often wonder how/if I would have contributed to the civil rights movement of the 60’s. My personality and ideology now is certainly different than the approach favored by King and the SCLC. But given the times and how perilous the decisions one made could prove, I don’t know. It’s easy to look back from decades later and say “well, I would have done xyz not abc”, but in the moment, with dogs, firehoses, brutality, and death staring you in the face, who knows?

  7. Denise HIll

    Well, here’s two I can come up with right now:

    In 1913, when Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring debuted, I would liked to have been there. I’d like to have seen the controversy and heard the conversations of those who opposed it. And I would liked to have seen the dancers continue their performance even though they couldn’t hear the orchestra above the jeers of the crowd. Such an image of perserverance is encouraging to me.

    I would liked to have been at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 when Secretariat took the triple crown or in 1978 when Seattle Slew took it. There have been others, but those are two horses whose careers I had been watching (yes, I was just a kid watching horse races).

  8. Jess

    I admit, Denise, I’ve never even heard of those horse races….Do you still watch horse races?

  9. Vanessa

    This was fun. I really had to think about it for a while. This is what a came up with in no particular order. I just put numbers for the sake of keeping it organized.

    1. I’d love to see the reaction on the faces of the Natives when the Spaniards arrived. Any place or time is fine, California, Dominican Republic, Virginia, Mexico. I would really love to see their reactions and be able to understand their language to know for myself, what did they really think about these outsiders.
    2. The birth of Jesus.
    3. The Ice Age. Of course I’d like to be watching the world from somewhere up above where I’m safe and see for myself this world changing event.
    4. The Big Bang. This would’ve been absolutely fascinating.
    5. The Wright Brothers and their multiple attempts for flight.
    6. Pompeii’s final moments.
    7. The Colonization of Hawaii. And I’d love to have been there to witness the Royalty’s reluctance to give in. This was a very sad moment in the history of the islands.
    8. The Moon Landing. I know people who insist that this never happened 😉
    9. The various sessions of the Constitutional Convention. We always revere these men as heroes and the truth is that what they did was pretty much against the law. They overthrew the government. 😉
    10. The days of the Yellow Emperor.

  10. Jess

    Wow, interesting moments, Vanessa. For those people who insist the moon landing never happened: JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and Michael Jackson probably didn’t either, either. They’re having a grand old party in some Caribbean island instead! 🙂

  11. teaparty

    appreciated this blog post!

  12. Brian Smith

    I would also love to be there when the Big Bang happened. Just to see another dimension of reality fold right before your eyes would be so fascinating.

    Also, to be present at Shea Stadium in 1965 when the Beatles bestowed upon a crowd the experience of a life time would also be splendid due to the sheer energy that was prevalent that day.

  13. Darren

    I’d love to have been in the room when Bill Gates came up with the concept for Windows…I would have talked him out of it!!

  14. Ron Khan

    @Darren…Or been in the room, became his partner and now the second richest person in the world : )

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