I was nine years old on August 19, 1991, but the day’s events remain unforgettable. It was the time I first feared for my way of life and my family’s safety.
As the summer drew to a close, existential dread was the furthest thing from my third grader’s mind. But the drawn, sober faces of my parents delivered me from my dreaminess. Their expressions, as they watched the breaking news of a hardliner coup in the Soviet Union, communicated the precariousness of our circumstances. I knew a little about the Soviet Union—its oppressive despotism, the Cold War that had been dying a slow death over the last 20 months, and the distant, theoretical prospect of nuclear annihilation. But before August 19, these were academic concepts. My ashen-faced parents took from me the illusion of security that morning, and I’ve been grateful for that ever since.