• 1991 The United States bombs Iraq. Iraq bombs Israel. We leave the radio on over shabbat in my house. In the basement. It is the only time I remember us doing such a thing. A girl from Tel Aviv joins my first grade class. I am overwhelmed with anxiety about my former babysitter who is living in Israel.
  • 1992 An athlete from the former Soviet Union wins a gold medal. Countryless, the athlete watches the Olympic flag raised instead of her own.
  • 1992 Bill Clinton runs against George Bush for president. In my third grade class, Bill Clinton wins the election, but Ross Perot gets a bunch of votes. People liked the size of his ears.
  • 1993 Yitzchak Rabin shakes hands with Yasser Arafat. The entire elementary school goes to the gym to watch the broadcast of the signing of the Oslo accords. I was far back, and the televisions were small.
  • 1995 O.J. Simpson is found "not guilty." I was home early that day. My British grandmother and I watched the verdict on television.
  • 1995 Someone calls friend or family from the synagogue as soon as shabbat is over. There is crying. A man, standing in the hallway, near the women's bathroom, bends over. All I can see is his back and his bent shoulders. I hear a man telling another man: "Yitzchak Rabin is dead."
  • 1996 A bus full of children dressed for Purim is blown up by terrorists. I am in sixth grade, in the hallway, wondering how someone could kill kids.
  • 1998 I get a question about Monica Lewinsky's mother wrong on a current events quiz.
  • 1998 I am in my new high school, on my way to the bathroom, discussing the fact that President Clinton has been impeached. I don't remember if that's when I was first told.
That's it for political and current event memories for the first half (and then some) of my life. There aren't even ten of them, and none of them have any relationship to newspapers.

There are memories later, once I was already reading the news, that have a newspaper tie in, but even those have more powerful image related to them. I saved the newspaper from September 12, 2001. In October 2001, I visited Ground Zero. Back in the hotel, I could smell the smoke on my clothes and my hair.

When Ilan Ramon died, I was still awake when the Jerusalem Post was delivered to my school in Jerusalem. But by then, I was older, more aware, and already thinking of becoming a journalist. By Israel I was getting New York Times headlines e-mailed to me so I could figure out when America was going to invade Iraq, and I'd have to go back home for a while. But what I remember more clearly, is that kids still dressed up as Ilan Ramon that Purim.

But the earliest memories have no newspaper headlines at all. I didn't even know if the Olympic memory was true until I looked it up for this post. I remember the ice, so it must have actually been pair skating.

I think about this after spending the evening fretting about middle school students in Washington D.C.

Asked why they don't read newspapers, they had the liveliest participation of the day.

"My grandfather reads the newspaper... I like to play video games."
"It's what old people do."
"Most of it is in black and white."
"It's boring, stupid, and hard to understand."
"It has nothing to do with my life."
"It's messy." (This was easily remedied by a quick session on how to fold a newspaper.)
"I already saw this on T.V."

It turns out that the Washington Post is hard for kids to understand. Especially kids who do not have newspapers in their houses. I fondly remembered reading the Student Page of the Boston Globe from third grade through middle school, so I assumed that my life was different: that I read the newspaper.

But then, when I look back on what I remember from elementary and middle school, it has almost nothing to do with the newspaper. It has everything to do with television, radio, or where I was standing when I heard the news.

It's going to be an uphill battle to teach these kids to put out any semblance of a newspaper. We're probably going to do it online: that's a reflection of the times. They struggle to read captions and headlines. Some of them rely on sight words and guess the end of a word. None of them can understand the headlines on a Washington Post feature. That's a reflection of their education (and a memo to the WPost features desk).

But, I'm going to stop grousing about how much more I read the newspaper. Because maybe the habits stuck, but television sure made for better memories.

I am going to teach them all to fold a newspaper. The one girl I taught looked at me like I showed her a magic trick.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

I have left my real name off of the blog so as not to imply that the blog is somehow linked with the journalism I get paid to do. (Still, I never write about my beat on this blog, and rarely express opinions about the day's news regardless of its relationship to my beat).

I would love to hear from you. If you want to contact me directly rather than leaving a comment here, I can be reached at WrittenPyramids@gmail.com.

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Books pyramid image originally from the British website, Explore Writing.