Youth versus Bullets

Tank Man, 19-year-old Wang Weilin faces Chines tanks on Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Wikipedia.

It’s an image that endures. It’s not old enough for us to call it historical yet. It only goes back about 30 years. But the frames of video taken by an amateur videographer show a man in a white shirt, dark pants, facing a column of military tanks. It was June 4, 1989. It was the final day of the student-organized, non-violence demonstration at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, just before China’s People’s Liberation Army gunned down hundreds of civilians for protesting government corruption and lack of free speech.

“Tank Man,” they called him. But the Sunday Express newspaper in Britain later claimed the man was Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student, who’d joined the weeks-long protest, despite the threat of annihilation.

Week of space shots

I think after the assassination of JFK, it’s the most significant “Where were you when…?” event in our lifetimes. It was the time – as baby-boom teenagers and their parents – we stayed glued to our TV sets all night on July 20, 1969, to watch U.S. astronauts land their Apollo 11 module on the moon and then watched former test pilot Neil Armstrong take those famous steps and speak to the world.

“That’s one small step for a man,” he said. “One giant leap for mankind.”

Yuri Gagarin remarked in space "  God"
Yuri Gagarin remarked in space, "I don't see any God up here."

In truth, however, the race for space began 50 years ago this week when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to be catapulted into Earth orbit aboard Vostok 1, a space capsule about as big as the Russian-built Lada.