When I was in junior high school one of my social studies teachers, we’ll call him Mr. T-man, told us exactly where he was and exactly what he was doing when he heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Mr. T-man also told us exactly where he was and what he was doing when the Cuban missile crisis started. He then told us that by the time we reached his age we’d probably have similar memories for three major world events. He was wrong. If only it was three.
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion and tonight there was a movie on about United flight 93, one of the four planes skyjacked on September 11, 2001. I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing when I learned about both of those events…but they aren’t the only ones.
- U.S. embassy hostage situation in Iran: I had just turned on the small TV in my parent’s bedroom as a special news report was being made about the attack.
- President Reagan shot: I was in high school, in-between classes, walking past the choir room when the vice principal announced the news.
- Challenger explosion: In college, in the chapel, and then ran to my dorm to see the TV coverage.
- Oklahoma City bombing: In a restaurant during lunch hour with co-workers. The waitress told us, "Oh some government building somewhere was bombed." None of us realized what really happened until we got home hours later after work.
- Atlanta Olympics bombing: I’d recently had surgery and was just turning off the TV when the smoke from the bomb could been seen.
- Swiss Air Flight 111 crash: I actually don’t remember where I was when I heard about the crash off the coast of Canada, but I remember I was at my computer writing a business email when an email arrived in my inbox telling me that a friend and college classmate had been killed in the crash.
- Terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: At 8:30 A.M., Central time, I was trying to get my browser to open the news page I had set as the home page. When it wouldn’t open, I logged onto AOL and there was this tiny picture of smoke coming out of one of the World Trade Center towers and a tiny plane approaching the other. I ran downstairs to turn on the news before I realized it was neither a tiny hole nor tiny planes.
- Columbia explosion: I drove, without the radio on, to a Saturday morning class, so my classmates told me about this tragedy.
- Tsunami of Dec. 2004: Again, I learned about this on my computer. My other strong remembrance of that morning was that for several hours one of the cable news channels spelled it as "sunami."
I was also at my computer when I heard about so many other events: the Japanese subway attacks, the London terrorist bombings, Pakistan/India earthquake, etc. I work at home and rarely turn on the radio or TV when I’m working, so the Internet is frequently my news source.
I wish Mr. T-man had been right; I wish there had only been three events. And the list above is incomplete–not only because there are so many other events I could have listed–but it’s incomplete because I haven’t listed exactly how I felt. But I don’t think you need me to tell you that, I’m sure you felt the same.
What event do you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news?