Kareem's Memoir & Bio

1986

Wild Weather indeed!
I had a relatively usual morning at Pinole Junior High. My first class was Art with Mrs. Donelley. She was one of my favorite teachers at Pinole Middle. Class had been in session for about 15 minutes when suddenly the rainy weather made an immediate and dramatic change for the worse. The remarkable thing was how it changed so draststormy treesically in such a short period. The sky was already an even, flat gray but in just a few seconds, it became much darker and the clouds became more pronounced. My attention shifted from the teacher, who was explaining how to do perspective drawing, to the window where I watched a couple of trees near the school library. The trees were just a dozen feet or so from our classroom. I knew the light rain was starting to increase but the wind was also increasing as demonstrated by the waving branches of the tree. Then, the wind just exploded when several huge gusts shoved both trees in one direction and then shoved them in the opposite direction. Just as that happened, the gusts caused the windows to flex making a loud noise which got the attention of the teacher and the rest of the class. She stopped teaching with this astonished look on her face and focused on the same window I was looking through. The rain was no longer falling down but falling sideways. The class became more interested and started gathering at the window

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along with the teacher. We saw a bright white flash and then heard the crackling, tearing sound of thunder. Then just as abruptly as it all started, it all ended. The whole ordeal lasted for about forty-five seconds. The rain calmed to a light sprinkle. The wind quieted to a very slight breeze. We had apparently experienced a freak thunderstorm, which also spawned a tornado in Oakland some ten miles away. One of the neighborhoods suffered minor damage.

The space shuttle exploded!
One typical school morning in my History class, my classmates and I were treated to space shuttle explosiona watching a live TV broadcast of the space shuttle launch. This launch was particularly special because a school teacher was going to be the first to one to ever fly into space aboard it. On the east coast where the launch was going to originate from, the weather was bitter, icy cold, which made some officials question whether the launch should take occur. But anxious NASA and key managers were eager to make the event happen regardless. Unfortunately, as my class watched what seemed to be a routine and even boring space shuttle launch, the shuttle became suddenly enshrouded in a orange and white fireball. It exploded?

Instantly, there was hush of silence that fell on the classroom. A few students even let out a few perplexed giggles. But no one knew what had happened. How were we supposed to react? Mr. Mueller was amazingly calm about the whole thing. He dismissed the class. Our school didn't even make an official announcement about the incident over the PA system. Later that evening, it became very apparent that this was a real serious event. I watched the news coverage of the accident for several days as the news media would space shuttle explosionrebroadcast the explosion over and over again. They kept showing that grotesque cloud which looked like a suspended octopus or hydra hanging in the air as the burning shuttle debris fell to the Atlantic Ocean below. The federal government investigated the accident of the Space Shuttle Challenger and released an official report known as the Presidential Commission Report. It indicated that because of the extremely cold weather that day, the rocket booster’s rubber gaskets, called O-rings became brittle, unsealed and allowed the rocket fuel (liquid hydrogen) to leak out during the launch. This leaking rocket fuel ignited into a fireball which enveloped the shuttle, destroying it. President Ronald Reagan lead the nation in a memorial service later that fateful week. It was shown live on television. I still can remember the images from that memorial service as well. For instance, as President Reagan was comforting the grieving family members at the service, one of the grandmothers of the seven astronauts collapsed to the ground. President Reagan reached down to pick her up and console her. That was such a gripping scene.

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What a thunderstorm!
The weather continued to do strange and quirky things. One September evening after school, the Bay Area began to experience minor thunderstorm activity. The weather reports were not reporting any chances of thunderstorms but did report partly cloudy skies and mild temperatures. The activity was minor but fascinated me. The storm dissipated later in the evening. Suddenly, at about 1AM, the lightning and thunder started again and continued well into the late morning. But this time the show was much more thrilling. Thunder thunderstormcrackled and rumbled setting off car alarms and sending dogs into a barking frenzy. The sound was compelling and very loud. Throughout the thunderstorm, the thunder was actually continuous, not allowing any time for silence to break in. The lightning occurred in every part of the sky. It illuminated the entire sky.

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There were moments when the entire sky would flash brightly like daytime and then back to momentary darkness. Lightning could be seen spreading from the glowing clouds and reaching down to the ground. I was absolutely fascinated by the electrical storm as I ran from window to window. .

Two big natural disasters
In 1985, the planet Earth had unleashed two natural disasters which would be major news stories. On Mexico City earthquakeSeptember 19, portions of Mexico City would be leveled by a huge 8.1 earthquake. Following this quake was another one measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale. There were dramatic pictures of buildings that had fallen against other buildings, collapsed high-rises, and many rescue efforts being played out. I will never forget when a hospital rescue received much attention and news coverage when dozens of infants were found alive in a collapsed building. Unfortunately, there were about 9,000 other people who didn't survive. Months later, and hundreds of miles away in South America, a volcano called Nevado Del Ruiz erupted sending a deadly landslide of melted snow and volcanic mud onto the small town of Armero, Columbia killing nearly 23,000 people. One image that I will never forget, waArmero mud victims seeing video of the town that was completely inundated in mud. The city was practically nonexistent after the mud buried it. When the news cameras arrived in Armero, they showed one video of an area that looked very much like a moonscape. There was gray mud everywhere. Even the trees were covered with this thick mud. There was no hint of color other than the deadly gray. The camera panned back and forth showing the occasional corpse and twisted houses. As I watched, camera came to an area and stopped, focusing on a tree. It was just the top of a tree sticking out above the colorless mud. Then suddenly out of the lifeless grayness, a pair of eyes blinked. It was a man who had clung to a tree and held on. He was still clinging to the tree appearing exhausted and barely alive.

Comet Halley
In 1986, Halley's Comet had made its appearance in our solar system. It was only visible in the early morning hours when it would rise up in the eastern part of the sky. When I was in the eighth grade, I met another student who was also very interested in astronomy. His name was William Ngan. Both he and I wanted to have a chance at viewing the famous comet. My older brother, George, was the only one who would get up in the wee hours of the early morning and drive us to a place in the city of Hercules to view the comet. It was 3:30 AM on a cool and clear, winter morning. The air was crisp and very cold. William and I were the only ones standing on a hill (now occupied by City Hall of Hercules) with our telescopes, binoculars, and cameras and Comet Halleyred filters. Our smoky breaths were seen in the chilled air. We had planned on this since we heard that Halley's Comet was coming into view. We constantly checked and compared our star charts and determined the position of the comet and its timing. Unfortunately it was becoming more apparent as time passed that the path of the comet would still be too far below our horizon's view. The dawn's early light was beginning to hue the sky in the targeted area. William and I couldn't see Halley's Comet even after all of our planning. But a month later, when I had some relatives visiting from Washington, I went upstairs into my mother's room to take one quick look toward the eastern sky for the faint fuzzy object. I searched the sky in that area for about five minutes and sure enough; there it was like an elusive, illuminated but barely visible "smeared star". I had located Halley's Comet. This was the same historical comet that had orbited into our view 75 years ago.

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I was happy. It certainly was not as bright as some scientists had predicted but I had seen it. And it won't be back until the year 2061. William had seen it also. He took a couple of photos of it and sent me a copy.
Lucky Stores moved to Hercules. Now there was a real store in the city.

TelevisionDiet Pepsi
During the summer, we cherished our time we would be spending with our favorote television shows. But there was one TV event that I dominated local programming stations: Wimbledon! When Wimbledon was on, we headed outside and spend time causing a ruckus in the neighborhood with our nieghbors. Commercial ads were still musically catchy. Diet Pepsi came out a nice jingle and I remember it well.

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This Fall, a new era of talkOprah Winfrey shows was beginning when Oprah Winfrey emerged doing her talkshow right after the Phil Donahue show. Oprah started out doing shows featuring topics from gang members, white supremacists to people who said that they believe that Elvis is still alive.

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