News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

March 24, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Memories stir desire to collect new ones

TERRE HAUTE — I was talking with a friend the other day, a much younger friend. Somehow the conversation turned to early memories. One of her earliest memories had to do with 9/11 and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers.

She, of course, had not been born when my early memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor changed my life and she was fuzzy on the assassination of President Kennedy, but she remembered clearly the fear she felt in the wake of the 9/11 attack.

Somehow the older I get and the longer my memory, the more I wish I had paid closer attention to my grandmother’s stories. She told me and Ed about her cousin who had stopped to say goodbye as he left to join the Union Army during the Civil War. She was nine years old, and the memory was vivid because the next they heard from him he was a prisoner of war at Andersonville.

I know family traditions can grow and become embellished a bit over the years, so once when I was in Springfield, Ill., I went to the State Library and looked up her cousin’s name on the roster of Illinois regiments. It was there.

Dad served in the Navy during World War One and made several trips between Newport News, Va., and Brest, France. Typical of Dad’s memories, each trip was funnier than the one before, and we loved his stories. I don’t claim he didn’t embellish a bit.

Mom’s memories were particularly interesting to me. Before women could vote, she seems to have been an independent woman, really independent. She managed to put herself through nurse’s training in spite of her father’s objection, and when women could vote, I don’t remember that she ever missed an election.

The older I get, the more memories crowd for attention. I remember where I was when Pearl Harbor was attacked and then, a few years down the line, when the war ended. Not all of the Johnnies came marching home, including some of the boys I knew.

I remember the dropping of the first atomic bomb. No one seemed to know exactly what that was, but it took only two to end the war. Then the world went nuts and two of the Kennedy boys and Martin Luther King were assassinated.

I sometimes wonder what my grandchildren will remember as an event which shaped their lives or their thinking. My long look leaves me wanting more history, and more time to observe history. I’ve missed a lot.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to

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