‘They actually watched TV’: Ramstein HS time capsule gives students glimpse into mysterious world of 2005
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — This year’s Ramstein High School seniors were toddlers when the class of 2005 boxed up a few items from their school years and sealed them up.
Across the doors of the double red and blue school locker, they spray-painted in big white letters instructions for a future generation: “Do Not Open Until 2020.”
But the time capsule’s spring opening had to be postponed when the pandemic shut down school in March.
“We figured we’d at least do it in the year 2020,” said class of 2021 sponsor Nathell Porter, while standing in the school’s senior hall Friday morning for the capsule’s unveiling.
With help from some bolt cutters, the padlocks were broken, the rusty doors pried open, and the current class officers, part of a group limited to under a dozen due to coronavirus restrictions, had a look. The event was recorded so the rest of the school could view it online.
Inside were old movie posters, a 2005 yearbook covered in dust, handwritten notes to classmates – before the age of smartphones – photos of students hanging out at school, and perhaps most mysterious of all, an MP3 player.
“I saw one when I was a little kid, but I haven’t seen one since,” said Alison LeClair, the senior class historian. The MP3 player was found to still work and had music on it, which the students planned to listen to later.
A letter written by Jayme Norris, a former RHS teacher and the class of 2005 sponsor, offered a glimpse into life back then.
George W. Bush was president and Angela Merkel was poised to become the first female chancellor of Germany. Myspace was popular, while YouTube was in its infancy but already holding fascination with young people.
“It was basic, it was slow, the videos were terrible,” said senior Dakota Boyles, reading Norris’ letter, “but it was something they were yearning to engage in, no matter which village with slow internet they lived in.”
And American Forces Network “was a thing for them. They actually watched TV,” with American Idol, Survivor, Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report among the class’s favorite shows, Norris said in her letter.
Times were also tough. The class of 2005 were freshman during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some lost family members and friends; student activities became “high-security events,” with military and German police and bomb-sniffing dogs on hand, while other events were canceled outright.
Come graduation, many seats were empty, as parents were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Middle East, Norris said in her letter.
The current seniors, finishing high school while in the grips of a pandemic, drew parallels to the former classmates.
“They were going through 9/11 and having to be on strict lockdown and how we’re going through that, I think it’s honestly fitting to open it at this time,” said Barakat Ibrahim, the senior class president.
Jamisen Casey, a student council representative, expects their graduation will also have empty seats, due to travel and other restrictions. “It’s really similar in different ways,” she said of the two classes.
The seniors, while noting the seriousness of their shared experiences, also poked fun at their differences.
“You got to love the boot-cut jeans and skirts,” one senior said as they looked over old photos.
Wearing “huge jeans and shirts,” students in 2005 looked “so comfortable and chill,” another student remarked. “Everything is in dress code.”