There’s the fiasco and humiliation in Afghanistan; the raging fires in the Sierra Nevada including the one threatening South Lake Tahoe and then the largest hurricane to make landfall since Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. All touch different memories for me and all have chased off significant news into the back pages of publications and off the major networks because there’s simply no time in the broadcast.
To think that 20 years later, as the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks is coming soon, and the Taliban is back in control blows my mind. You can debate whether we belonged there, the mission creep and lack of clear objectives, but there’s no arguing that despite President Joe Biden’s public assurances that no Americans would be left behind, 100 to 200 were, if not more. The State Dept. doesn’t know how many to say nothing of the thousands of Afghans who worked for the United States during the 20 years. Time will tell how the diplomatic approach will work in getting people out of a country run by a terrorist group.
The particular irony for me is thinking back to the Russian incursion into Afghanistan during the Jimmy Carter presidency. That invasion resulted in the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Is the Biden Administration considering something similar for the upcoming Winter Olympics in China given that county’s horrific treatment of the Muslim Uighurs? As that war wore on and my newspaper was blessed with an abundant newshole, our shorthand for how to fill up pages “in the back of the book” was “Afghanistan news.”
I have been paying close attention to the Caldor fire is it spread along Highway 50 and grew south toward Highway 88. Both are my favorite routes to South Lake Tahoe, a frequent winter destination for us when we were skiing 15-20 days a year (the economics were much different in those days). I have grown quite concerned as the fire topped Echo Summit and started to spread in Meyers and other neighborhoods. Fortunately, the news this morning is better as the winds have quieted and shifted and fire lines are holding.
Many memories stem from our timeshare unit that sits at the foot of the Heavenly Valley gondola. We celebrated 40 years of ownership in March and spent many Easter weeks there with our families. We were planning to head back up there two weeks ago and thought better of it looking at the smoky air and miserable air quality indexes. In retrospect, entirely the right call.
Hurricane Ida hitting New Orleans as a category 4 sparks different memories. I recall how impressed I was with the volunteers from our church and others who traveled at their own expense there to help people muck out their houses and prepare for reconstruction. The other recollection is personal—16 years ago I was online looking for news about Katrina and the situation. The second story on that particular website was a news feature on the annual fertility festival in Swaziland where the king selects his next week—it is a polygamous culture.
I had just returned from my first mission trip to Swaziland and had driven by those festival grounds as we were headed back to South Africa and the plane ride home. AIDS ravaged Swaziland in those days and the organization was partnering with Swazis on gardens growing greens high in antioxidants to help strength their immune systems. That was the first of what has become nine mission trips, six years on the board of Heart for Africa and an abiding interest and concern for the tiny kingdom.
One interesting shift over the years—pre-Covid—is that we saw far fewer billboards offering funeral services in 2019 that we did 10 years before.
These three huge stories are dominating news cycle after news cycle despite efforts by the Biden administration to shift it elsewhere.