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The '90s: Impact Still Sinking In

This story first aired Nov. 14, 2008

It's not even a decade since the last decade of the prior millennium -- the 1990s -- so the impact of that ten-year span is difficult to gauge, to put in proper perspective.

But The Early Show

as we concluded our weeklong series, "Five Days, Five Decades," with various highlights touched on by our anchors.

"The 90s was such a hodgepodge," reflected weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price. "You think of the (shuttle launch into space of) the Hubble telescope on the one end shooting stars, and then you think of the war in Iraq and firing rockets."

"The (first) Gulf War, in fact," says news anchor Russ Mitchell, "was, I think, for a generation of Americans, the first war they can remember."

"I remember it was a huge victory for the U.S. because we accomplished our mission," says co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez, and President Bush got widespread praise.

"It's hard to believe that, just a year later, he lost the election to this obscure governor from Arkansas," marveled Mitchell.

"I still believe in a place called Hope," said Bill Clinton of his hometown, to the Democratic convention.

"It was such a huge generational change," observes co-anchor Harry Smith. " ... These were the first real baby boomers to go into the White House."

Ultimately, Mr. Clinton got caught up in the Monica Lewinksy controversy. And was impeached. But not convicted in the Senate.

"Pretty Woman." Michael Jackson. "Home Alone." "The Simpsons." "Cowabunga." "Seinfeld."

. Memorable TV commercials.

All dotted the entertainment and cultural landscape.

"Grunge -- grunge was a movement. It was a look," recalled Chen. "No fashion sense whatsoever."

Fashion in the '90s was the anti-80s. Excess was out. Simple and casual were in. So were comfort and bright colors.

The Internet began to sprout. The phone-connection sounds of AOL, and its "You've got mail," are still heard today in millions of homes, though millions more have moved on to high-speed Web connections.

"I remember," says co-anchor Julie Chen, "the Internet just starting, and the 'information superhighway,' as they called it."


"It was impossible to think there would be a day when Nelson Mandela would be free," commented Smith. "The day Nelson Mandela was freed -- that was one of the miracles, of my lifetime."

"Rodney King, a black man was beaten by white police officers in Los Angles," Rodriguez remarked.

"Racism and violence reared its ugly head -- during and after that beating," Price said.

"The fact that this was happening in the United States of America -- was unreal to many of us," Mitchell said. "And thank goodness, nothing like that has happened since then."

In Oklahoma City -- the never-to-be forgotten federal building courthouse: "Oh, my God," Rodriguez said. "The picture of that building after it exploded and it was just a shell. ... That was the first time I think that we felt domestic terrorism like that."

"I remember going with the U.N. delegation on what was supposed to be a fact-finding trip to Bosnia," Smith says. "This incredible ethnic cleansing was going on. Just about every third house had been burned to the ground."

Princess Di met a tragic death. "She was so young," Rodriguez says. "She was so beautiful. ... And my heart just broke for those boys (her sons, Princes William and Harry)."

The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

"Enough blood and tears. Enough," declared Yitzhak Rabin. He DID shake hands with Yassar Arafat with Mr. Clinton looking on, only to be assassinated when he returned home to Israel.

The O.J. Simpson trial. A nation riveted. "We couldn't take our eyes off the television," Chen says.

"You just say the word Columbine and people shake their heads," Rodriguez points out.

"A lot of people say, 'Well, what were the 90s about?' " Price summed up. "What was their impact? I'm not sure we know yet. It's still very recent history."

We would like to thank:

  • THE '90s!
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