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Moments of Being

I'm inspired by gillo's thoughtful post on the anniversary of the death of Diana, to post some reflections of moments in my life when news items came into sharp focus. Usually, we are overwhelmed with a sea of images and events, especially nowadays when there are so many opportunities to access information. Even as a child, however, I was aware of a swirl of news around me all the time. My mother had the radio on all day long; my father was an information junkie and used to watch two or even three news broadcasts every evening, on top of his reading of the daily newspaper. Some events, though, rise to the surface of that sea of information and have a distinctness that others lack.


The Kennedy Assassination

Yes, I'm old enough to remember this absolutely clearly. It is probably the first real "news" item that I do remember (apart from a sense of unease around the Cuban Missile Crisis). I was in Grade 2, and we were sent home from school, told not to return home after lunch. "Neat!" was our first response. No one in my class knew the reason why, and we were not told. Outside, however, in the playground, one of the older boys said that the American president had been killed. None of us believed him. When I got home, I saw that my mother had been crying.


Churchill's funeral

This is not as clear - I don't remember what year this was or how old I was. I do remember the house we were living in, so I can place it within the three years that we lived there. I mostly remember the grey images of the great state funeral, the people lining the streets, the gloomy procession (echoed years later in vivid colour by Diana's funeral).


The Moon Landing

We were on holiday, that summer, and staying in a motel with a pool. My parents sat inside on blazingly hot sunny days and watched TV endlessly, while I sensibly swam all day. I missed the "one small step" bit, but I do remember seeing those ghostly black and white images of the men bouncing around in the moon landscape as they happened, not just in the endless replays afterwards.


Watergate

No, I don't remember where I was the night of the break-in :) But I do remember clearly the hours and hours of televised coverage of the hearings and those shifty, weaselly characters saying things like "at this point in time" and "I do not recall." And I remember the sober faces of one or two of the senate investigators. This one is perhaps the most "defining" event, however, as it represented the beginning of our complete lack of trust in government.


The Shooting of John Lennon

To be perfectly honest, this one didn't affect me all that deeply. But I do remember clearly where I was and what I was doing. I was in grad school in Toronto. It was fairly late at night, and my room mate and I had just been out behind one of the nearby corner stores stealing milk cartons to use as shelving. I was on my knees beside the bath, washing mine, when J came out of her room and called out that John Lennon had been shot.


The Challenger Disaster

Thankfully, I was in Hong Kong. I say thankfully, because it happened on January 28th, my birthday (and it was my 30th birthday), and it would have cast something of a pall over the day had I been in North America. As it was, we went out for breakfast the morning of the 29th and there was that terrible photo on the front page of all the newspapers.


Diana

Yes, well, I do remember the moment in the latish evening our time, when a new bulletin broke into the television program that Diana had been in a car accident. And then the moment of complete shock when the ticker-tape message scrolled by that she had died. And then the days and days of endless media coverage. And crying on the first day because she was young and beautiful and left two young sons. The sharp poignancy of the card with "Mummy" written on it on the hearse at her funeral.


9-11

Of course. It was very early in the morning, our time. I have a clock radio, that I use as an alarm clock. I had to teach that morning, and was awoken by a news bulletin that there'd been a plane crash in New York and there was a fire. I came upstairs and turned on the TV to an American channel. I saw the second plane hit and both towers collapse. My mother came out of her bedroom, and her immediate response when I told her what was going on was "oh, Lord, this means war." Then I had to go and teach an 8:30 class.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
gillo
Aug. 31st, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
It's strange how these moments are both shared and highly personal, isn't it? You raise one or two others I might have added - watching Churchill's funeral (the last big event narrated by Richard Dimbleby; he made much of the US joining us just as we had joined them in grief two years earlier for Kennedy's funeral - which is how I always remember it was 1965.) Watergate passed me by, except when there were some US exchange students in my college in autumn '73, who regularly repeated the refrain "Our President is a crook." I didn't then realise how unprecedented it was for Americans to be so rude about their leader.

The card with "Mummy" on was moving - but it made me feel emotionally manipulated too. I think by that stage I was just too grumpy about it all.
noveldevice
Aug. 31st, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
I watched the Iran-Contra hearings on tv the summer I was eleven. We only had network tv and everything was preempted, so I watched it as it happened. My parents are violent conservatives, at the time Republicans, now the pro-gun anti-drug sort of Libertarian, but I remember at the time wondering why it was that this was okay, that laws were broken and people lied to Congress but no one went to jail.
wordweaverlynn
Aug. 31st, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
I remembering hearing that Churchill had died on the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite. I was about 6, and I knew about Churchill because my father owned his history of World War II. (My God, how vividly I remember those books. I wonder who has the set now.)

JFK was a far more personal grief; I really loved him. I was four then.
intertext
Aug. 31st, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
I still have my father's set of those books!
chickenfeet2003
Aug. 31st, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
I have one very personal memory of the news. August 1982 I was visiting a client in Ashford, Kent and, as was my wont, I had the hotel alarm clock/radio tuned to Radio 4. I woke to the news that Ruth First had been murdered by BOSS. Ruth had been a sort of mentor to me in the anti-apartheid movement and was a good friend of wandra's mother.
inaniac
Sep. 1st, 2007 08:57 am (UTC)
I nearly echoed your mother, but I think I said something about world war 3. Scary stuff.

My younger brother was born either the day of, or the day, after Kennedy's assassination.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 6th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
Elvis
One of my most vivid "this is a significant moment" memory was the death of Elvis. My Mom was a huge Elvis fan and I have a really strong memory of a hot summer day at our cabin in Saskatchewan with my Dad attempting to console an inconsolable Mom.

Clint
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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