Friday 29 August 2008

What were you doing when…?

I've been drawn into another meme by Ali! This time it's about significant events in recent history from my perspective. Here goes…

Princess Diana's death – 31st August 1997

I was assistant director of a Salvation Army summer camp for children in north-east Ohio, USA (Camp Neosa). The main season had ended and the kids returned to school, but for the last couple of weeks in August we ran sessions for others – older people or church groups. As I recall it was Labor Day weekend and people from Salvation Army churches across north-east Ohio had gathered for the annual 'Camp Meetings' – worship services, bible studies, BBQs, hanging out. It was always an easier pace than the rest of the summer so I quite enjoyed it.

It was over breakfast on the Sunday morning (5 hours behind UK time) that someone came and told me what the news was. I think at first I thought they were joking. Obviously they weren't.

A few days later on the day of the funeral my girlfriend (now wife) came over to my apartment at about five in the morning so we could watch the funeral. Two things about the funeral struck me. One was a marvellous piece of choral music that I don't actually remember what it was called, but all the way through it was a sustained pedal-point drone sung by the basses. The other thing was the images of flowers being thrown on to the hearse as it drove along its route.

I can remember thinking at the time that there seemed to be an awful lot of fuss about this woman and it wasn't as if Mother Teresa had died. That happened six days later on 5th September 1997.

Margaret Thatcher's resignation – 22nd November 1990

I wasn't particularly interested in politics in 1990 and so couldn't say for sure what I was doing when this event took place. I do remember the striking photo of her in the car leaving Downing Street – the Iron Lady, crying.

Attack on the Twin Towers – 11th September 2001

I'm sure for many in my generation this will be our JFK-assassination-where-were-you moment.

My wife and I were just a couple of days into our training for ministry in The Salvation Army at their theological college in London having moved to the UK from the States earlier that summer. We had had some kind of introductory class in the morning followed by lunch with our "session mates" and staff. The afternoon was set aside for official photos. It was after we had been photographed and were walking down a corridor that a member of staff stopped us to say that there had been a plane crash in America – the full extent of what had happened was not yet clear to reporting media. (I could tell a similar story of travel news reports on the radio regarding a malfunction or "power surge" on the London Underground on 7th July 2005).

My wife and I returned to our little flat to continuing unpacking and arranging furniture. I decided to turn the TV on to see if there was anything on the news about this plane crash. What we saw shocked and stunned us and will forever be imprinted in our minds. One of the towers had been hit by a plane in what seemed to be a horrific accident. A few minutes later we watched as the second plane struck instantly changing the perspective of the scene.

As the afternoon progressed lots of people came around to see us and ask about my wife's family – a thousand miles from New York. We assumed they were ok, but it was impossible for quite some time to get a phone connection to the USA so great was the demand for communication.

My wife planted a small American flag outside as a symbol of solidarity. I was touched when, later that evening, I noticed that some of the teenagers whose parents we were training with had placed a few candles by the flag, and a hand written prayer.

England's World Cup semi-final v Germany – 4th July 1990

I was a teenager living in Felixstowe, Suffolk. A few friends had come around to my house to watch the game and we were all bitterly disappointed with the result. I have a feeling one of my friends kicked a bird table in our back garden and broke the top off. Later on, as we wondered through our small town centre that evening, I saw a Germany football shirt in the window of a sports shop. I spat at it. (Not a very proud memory that. Sorry.)

President Kennedy's Assassination – 22nd November 1963

Umm, if I was a teenager in 1990 I'm sure you can appreciate that this event has very little emotional attachment for me. Like Ali though I have enjoyed the conspiracy theories.

Right, now I've got to think of a couple of people who could have a go at answering these…

I'm going to nominate my wife even though the only two that will really apply to her are items 1 and 3 – both of which I was with her at the time. It might be interesting to hear her side of the same event.

I'll also nominate jsi and miz melly.

Finally, I am going to randomly choose a complete stranger by clicking the "Next blog" button above. So…

mints it's over to you! (Poor girl has lost her snail).


mints said...

yay! i am so excited.
i will do this for you right now.
i was surprised to see a comment
on my blog.
it's sad. nobody comments.
and please let me know if you
should happen to find seymour.

judysteapot said...

it's amazing what memories come back when we associate it with different events.

Thanks for your comment on blog - yes Karl is OK -just angry that it happened without any warning. He's been in touch with Camden Police and they have sent him to hospital for a check up, which I have been telling him all long BUT then I'm only 'mum' lol

RJ said...

Thanks, man, for this refresher course. I had to pass on the world cup option... but found the other 4questions fascinating. Be well.

jsi said...

I'll post mine here, if you don't mind.

August 31, 1997 We had lived in our home about 8 weeks, newly appointed as Salvation Army Lieutenants to Rochester PA. Our oldest daughter was simply a few weeks old, and she was someone who had her days and nights mixed up. To help keep myself awake I had the tv on while I was feeding her. I had finished feeding her and we were playing a bit before I was going to lay her down when the news broke through the regular programmed show. With terrible news.

The funeral on September 6 found me in that same easy chair, feeding the baby and crying over the hope and joy I felt at being a mother and recognizing the loss and pain these young sons were feeling without theirs. The music, oh the music, was amazing especially The BBC Singers and soprano soloist Lynne Dawson singing Verdi's Requiem Libera me, Domine. (I think that may even have been the piece to which you referred). I can still hear it ringing in my ears.

November 22 1990
Margaret Thatcher's resignation caught me by surprise, again needing to have been observed over the tv. I was home from college that day, sick in bed.

September 11 2001
I had just walked our elementary school aged children to school, two blocks from home and spent some time talking with some neighbors who were doing the same thing, while I had our two youngest children with me. So I didn't get back home until 8:30 a.m. and turned on Katie and Matt on the Today Show. The first plane had already struck and as I was trying to figure out what in the world was happening the second flew into the other tower on live broadcast. Flight 93 had already left Boston and as we were to find out very quickly, was flying over our house before the heros on board stormed the cockpit and crashed the plane 45 miles away from our home.

Pittsburgh International Airport was 25 miles away and closed itself under terrorist conditions and my entire neighborhood worked there, so they were rushing home and grabbing their kids out of school in angst and distress. We all kept our young ones outside playing and having popcicles, while all the parents were filled with anxiety and concern. We went from yard to yard praying and consoling. And kept the tv off for nearly a month - the truth of the news was far too strong for those young children to hear.

England versus Germany World Cup Semi-finals July 4 1990
The football I am enthused by is oblong and brown - we are watching the Ohio State Buckeyes this afternoon - GO BUCKEYES! So, who won your football game? Germany, perhaps?

November 22, 1963 JFK's Assassination

Long before my time, my parents were still in high school and hadn't met yet, they lived on two different sides of the country.

Thus concludes the longest comment I have ever left. Best wishes to Jane and your clan.

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